School Climate & Safety

Shooting Protests Continue to Affect Schools in St. Louis Area

By Evie Blad — August 18, 2014 4 min read
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This is a cross post from District Dossier.

Three of the four public school districts serving Ferguson, Mo., were closed on Monday, as the St. Louis suburb remained embroiled in protests sparked by the shooting death of an unarmed 18-year-old African-American man.

The Jennings, Ferguson-Florissant, and Riverview Gardens school districts, all said that they would be closed on Aug. 18. Hazelwood, which opened on Aug.11, continued to hold classes Monday.

A note posted on the Jennings School District website said the decision was made “out of an abundance of caution,” and that the district anticipated starting the school year on Tuesday, Aug. 19.

Jennings District noted the continuing unrest in the city, and the announcement by Governor Jay Nixon early Monday that he was calling on the National Guard to restore peace and order in the city.

The Ferguson-Florissant School District also cited the continuing unrest in Ferguson, along with concern for the safety of students who may be walking to school or waiting for the bus. The district has twice postponed its opening day.

It did not say when schools were expected to reopen, but it has posted on its website counseling services and tips for parents, students, and families.

Riverview Gardens also cited concern for the safety of students walking to schools and the impact the unrest will have on transportation. Riverview Gardens also did not say when it will open its doors for students.

Since Michael Brown, a black teenager, was shot by a police officer Aug. 9 tensions have continued to mount in the city. The shooting was followed by protests and looting that propelled this small town of about 21,000 people onto the front pages of national —and, in some cases, international—newspapers.

(Amnesty International, the global human rights group, said it was sending a delegation to Ferguson to observe police and protester activities on the ground.)

The situation appeared tempered somewhat on Thursday, after Governor Nixon transferred policing to the state Highway Patrol. But tension flared again on Friday after the Ferguson police chief named the officer involved in the shooting as Darren Wilson but also released a videotape of Brown, allegedly stealing cigarillos from a convenience store.

The police chief later clarified that the officer who shot Brown did not know that Brown was a suspect in the robbery at the time of the shooting. But by then, protesters were already inflamed by what they said was an attempt by the police to smear Brown.

On Saturday, Gov. Jay Nixon implemented a midnight to 5 a.m. curfew; but some people still violated that order and seven arrests were made on the first night of implementation.

On Sunday, a day of protest and a rally was held at Greater Grace Church that included Ronald S. Johnson, the commanding officer of Missouri State Highway Patrol who was put in charge of security in the area on Thursday to quell the unrest; the Rev. Jesse Jackson, and Al Sharpton. By nightfall there were skirmishes between police and protesters.

The Wall Street Journal reported that three people were shot overnight, and up to eight people may have been arrested.

Late Sunday, The New York Times published the results of a preliminary independent autopsy by the former chief medical examiner for New York City, who was hired by an attorney for the Brown family.

The autopsy by Dr. Michael M. Baden found that Brown had been shot at least six times, at least twice in the head. All of the bullets appeared to have been fired into the front of his body, contradicting some reports that Brown had been shot from behind, according to the The New York Times.

The Justice Department, citing “extraordinary circumstances,” also said on Sunday that it planned to conduct an independent autopsy. The County of St. Louis also did an autopsy on Brown last week, but the results have not been made public as of Monday.

Many woke up Monday to the news that Gov. Nixon had signed an executive order to call in the National Guard to help restore peace and order to the city, in the wake of “deliberate, coordinated, and intensifying attacks on lives and property in Ferguson.”

“Tonight, a day of hope, prayers, and peaceful protests was marred by the violent criminal acts of an organized and growing number of individuals, many from outside the community and state, whose actions are putting the residents and businesses of Ferguson at risk,” Nixon said in the statement accompanying the announcement. “I join the people of Ferguson, and all Missourians, in strongly condemning this criminal activity that included firing upon law enforcement officers, shooting a civilian, throwing Molotov cocktails, looting, and a coordinated attempt to block roads and overrun the Unified Command Center. These violent acts are a disservice to the family of Michael Brown and his memory, and to the people of this community who yearn for justice to be served, and to feel safe in their own homes.”

A version of this news article first appeared in the Rules for Engagement blog.