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School Climate & Safety

Minn. District Gets Ready to Welcome Students Back After High School Shootings

By Rhea R. Borja — April 12, 2005 2 min read
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The school board for Minnesota’s Red Lake school district, whose high school was the site of a March 21 attack by a student gunman, voted unanimously April 6 to reopen its schools this week.

However, the re-opening may be delayed yet again as the Federal Bureau of Investigation was reportedly searching the high school for a gun.

Students at the 355-student Red Lake High School were scheduled to resume classes April 11 in the older section of the high school building, away from the heavily damaged wing in which 16-year-old Jeff Weise shot and killed five students, a teacher, and a school security guard, before killing himself.

The middle and high school students were scheduled to attend half-days this week. However, they will not go to school on Friday, because the 1,481- student district wants to use April 15 to let teachers plan for the weeks ahead, said Kathryn “Jody” Beaulieu, a Red Lake school board member. Elementary school students were scheduled to resume their normal full-day schedules this week.

District officials on the remote American Indian reservation postponed a traditional healing ceremony outside the school after news of the FBI weapon search.

That ceremony would have marked the first time most students, teachers and parents had entered the school since Mr. Weise burst through the doors minutes before the end of a school day.

Seeking Normalcy

Red Lake school board members made their decision to reopen schools after a former Kentucky principal, whose school was also the site of a deadly shooting by a student, spoke to them and local educators last week about beginning anew.

Bill Bond was the principal of Heath High School in West Paducah, Ky., on Dec. 1, 1997. That’s the day a 14-year-old student shot eight other students. Three of them died. The gunman, Michael Carneal, pleaded guilty and is serving a life sentence in prison without the possibility of parole for 25 years.

Mr. Bond counseled Red Lake administrators and teachers on how to conduct the first days back at school, such as how to engage students, yet be sensitive to any emotional trauma they’re experiencing.

He is now a school violence consultant for the National Association of Secondary School Principals, based in Reston, Va., and has visited the sites of five other school shootings since 1997.

“The kids need to come back and … get back to some normalcy,” Mr. Bond said. “It’s really important that the kids have a connection with this school and with their teachers.”

One task students won’t have to worry about is taking state standardized tests this spring, the Minnesota education commissioner ruled.

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