MCHS HONORS FLORIDA SHOOTING VICTIMS
MCHS honors Florida shooting victims
Speakers stress safety; some parents join students for assembly
By Cathy Decker
ALEDO — Just about half of Mercer County High School’s 386 students attended the 10 a.m. voluntary assembly Wednesday to honor the victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting that took place just a month ago in Parkland, Florida.
The emphasis was on honoring the 17 individuals who lost their lives Feb. 14 at around 10 a.m. Students at MCHS read short biographies and showed photos of the 14 students and three staff members who died that day. There was no talk about gun control during the presentation.
The auditorium was in absolute silence as individual students and one teacher came forward to talk about the families, activities and accomplishments of the victims. Many of the MC students wore “Never Again” or “Enough is Enough” T-shirts as they read the biographies.
Principal Stacey Day stressed school safety as the main issue. She closed the assembly by challenging students to do something positive. “Find your 17 acts of kindness you’re able to do today,” she said. “You have the power to change things right now, today. Find 17 ways to make somebody’s day better.”
Junior Lauren Morby talked about an email message the students received from a mother whose son attends Stoneman Douglas. She said her son is now afraid to go to school. “Many of the students do not come to school now,” she said. “This is a very serious matter that we’re having to deal with,” she added.
While some students struggled with keeping their emotions during the presentation, most shared somberly the information about the students and staff who were no longer with them.
The three adults killed during the rampage included the athletic director, an assistant football coach and a geography teacher. The coach stepped in front of students while the gunman was shooting. The geography teacher ushered students back into the classroom to protect them better. The athletic director was touted as an “awesome husband, father and American.”
Also appearing during the assembly was Aledo Chief of Police Chris Sullivan. He talked about how the district had a school resource officer who was present in the schools. He said the local police had trained in all the schools for how to deal with traffic, natural disasters, school violence and, “unfortunately, school shooters. I want to tell you how seriously we take your safety,” he said.
Mercer County Sheriff Dave Staley spoke about how deputies will in the future be more present in the schools. “You’re going to see us a lot more in and out of the schools,” he said. He encouraged people to ask the officers questions and pass along anything suspicious. “I pray that we never have to have anything happen here,” he said.
Superintendent Scott Petrie talked to the students about how the district cooperates with law enforcement, how safety plans are reviewed and how staff is trained. “We take student safety very seriously,” he said. He pointed out the district has already created a secure entrance at the junior high building, installed more cameras at all the schools and based on a 10-year health life safety study plans to install all new, and more secure doors at the high school, as well as at other buildings.
He pointed out the district is planning to hold a community engagement meeting on April 10. “We’ve invited a number of representatives from our local area,” he said.
As students returned to their classes, a few parents also left the building. “I’m kind of upset there weren’t more parents here,” said Melissa Sissel, who has a son attending the high school. “Students need to know they can come to us if they have any concerns.”