NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — On Valentine’s Day, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, would become the third worst school massacre in modern American history, with 17 dead.
In the wake of unspeakable evil, 10 On Your Side asked four Norfolk high school seniors: “How many of you feel less safe in your schools?”
All four, Kendric Kirkpatrick from Lake Taylor High School, Marisa Forstrom, also from Lake Taylor, Dontie Brooks from Booker T. Washington High School, and Rubylin Castillo from Norview High School, all raised their hands indicating they did feel less safe after reports of the Florida shooting, and so many others before Florida.
“I make sure every morning I am saying ‘goodbye’ to my sister, just in case that way I know if something happens I said something to her,” Rubylin said. “I’m always watching my back just a little bit more,” Kendric added.
The four say these things because in our society today, they don’t know if they are coming home.
“I’m being more aware of my friends, my family members. I’m making sure they are not in a predicament,” Dontie says.
They’ve been watching the Parkland students who survived, who are now school safety advocates speaking out about their loss, guns and threats.
The four Norfolk seniors did not feel the same intensity on this issue because they haven’t lived it.
In Hampton Roads, you have to go back 30 years to 1988 when 16-year-old Nicholas Elliot killed a teacher at Atlantic Shores Christian School. Dontie adds, “It is a wake-up call for us. We have to act now, so it doesn’t happen here. We need to get more involved in the community reaching out to the parents.”
When asked if they knew which school shooting was the worst in modern American history, they didn’t know about Virginia Tech in 2007, when 32 victims died. Dontie says, “I don’t remember this. This was in 2007. I was only 7 years old.”
Hampton Roads has been spared the tragedy that has hit too many American communities, but the four have lost friends to gun violence.
Kendric and Marisa’s classmate at Lake Taylor, Keshawn Alexander, was recently gunned down in the Campostella section of Norfolk.
“He was just open, bubbly, very happy to talk to people,” Kendric said. Marisa added, “I personally don’t like going out, and talking to people about my feelings, so I didn’t go to a counselor, but it was a lot for me to take in.”
They miss Keshawn a lot, and think about him too, “We’ve started becoming more close. We’ve started saying we love you to each other,” Kendric told us.
Rubylin brought up the Declaration of Independence, which reads “the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” all of which seem lost in school shootings.
“I noticed liberty and happiness come after life, so gun rights would have to go under liberty, but we can’t have that without having life,” Rubylin said.
NRA supporters will, of course, argue that good people with guns can save lives.
10 On Your Side asked whether they feel more afraid than at the beginning of the year. “A little more cautious,” says Kendric. “I watch my back a little bit more than usual.”
What concerns these four Norfolk High School seniors is the increasing number of social media threats against students and schools all over Hampton Roads.
A James Blair Middle School student wrote, “I swear I’m shooting every single teacher and student.” Rubylin quickly says, “Taking someone’s life is not a joke. It is deplorable.” Middle and high school students in WAVY’s viewing area have been arrested, and many charged with felonies.
Kendric adds, “you are just basically throwing your life away. You won’t be able to get any meaningful job, any meaningful college applications and you are just in middle school, so you are going to go through your high school life without going any farther.”
Dontie says social media like Snapchat and Instagram need to do more to filter what is on their sites, and parents need to step up too.
“I believe parents should be more involved with their children and what they are doing,” Dontie noted.
Kendric has a different take on social media. “That is the one good thing about social media. If somebody sees it, they are going to post it, then there will be a chain effect where it gets to many people (and everyone will know the threat is there),” Kendric said.
When asked if they knew whether or not there were guns in their homes, three said no, and one wasn’t sure.
When asked if they believe in arming teachers, they all quickly and unanimously agreed it was a terrible idea. “I am opposed to that,” one said.
They say they support background checks. “I’m not saying just take away everyone’s guns,” Rubylin says. “Yes, it is their right, however, I think we should control things like mental illness background checks.”
Reports indicate the Parkland shooter’s significant mental illness warning signs were largely ignored.
The four all agree more needs to be done when someone sees something concerning.
“Teachers and students and peers. The people you are close with and you know they are going through something in their life, you need to say something. If you can’t help them, then you need to find someone who can,” Dontie said.
All of them immediately raised their hands when asked if they’d step in to help someone who’s troubled and figure out what’s wrong.
They have thoughts about the media.
Many might know Nikolas Cruz, the shooter, but how about the victims who were killed and injured?
“You know his name, but do you know a single victim because I don’t…I can’t name a victim, but I go through posts and I see his name over and over again,” Marisa said.
Rubylin added: “I always think these are 17 people who will never see their families…they will never get to truly pursue. When I did see news about the stories on the victims, and other than the coaches and teachers they were all younger than I am, and that might have been the worst part…these people had so much ahead of them and it was just stolen away.”
Norfolk Public Schools officials sent a list of measure that were in place prior to the high school shooting in Florida:
- All schools are required to create and update a crisis plan to be activated in the event of an emergency. While staff are trained to implement this plan, specific details in these plans are kept confidential to ensure maximum security effectiveness.
- At least twice a year, all schools conduct lock-drown drills during which students and staff practice emergency procedures to block access to rooms. These lock-down procedures are evaluated for improvements after each drill.
- We constantly remind students and staff…If you see or hear something, say something – any person on any campus should immediately report concerns or possible threats to school staff for response. This includes disturbing social media posts or comments made that could be perceived as a threat.
- School resource officers (SRO’s) and security staff in schools are trained for emergencies and staff know to contact law enforcement anytime there is a perceived threat to safety and security. Our strong relationship with Norfolk PD, Norfolk Fire Department and other local law enforcement agencies allow us to constantly and quickly assess and respond to potential threats.
- Exterior access doors are locked and admittance controlled via the front office. Schools have entry procedures in place for the purpose of keeping buildings secure. All staff should have their NPS badge displayed at all times. Remind students and staff not to allow visitors in through side doors. All visitors must report to the front office upon entry. Violations should be reported to school staff immediately.
- Cameras are used to monitor schools and facilities.
- Counseling and support services are always available. Parents can contact school staff if they notice disturbing changes in behavior or think their children may need mental/emotional support for any reason.
- Additional protocols and procedures are in place at every school and NPS facility, but are not disclosed in order to preserve safety and security.