The Slatest

That North Carolina High School Didn’t Make Kids Sit in Normal Classes After a Fatal Shooting on Campus

A generic photo of an empty classroom
Schools are responsible for students’ safety until the final bell rings. Matt Hoffman via Unsplash

After a student at Butler High School fatally shot a classmate Monday, the North Carolina school went on lockdown before allowing parents to come in and pick up students. For the students remaining, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District announced, “classes will proceed on campus today.” That decision didn’t go over well with several people inside and outside the school.

The announcement and subsequent news reports quickly sparked outrage and distress among folks on Twitter who lamented that school communities had become so inured to shootings that kids were expected to stay in class just after one of their classmates was killed within its corridors.

The shooting, in which 16-year-old Bobby McKeithen died, occurred shortly before classes started Monday morning, and students spent their first period in lockdown in their nearest classroom, according to the Charlotte Observer. A district spokesperson later explained to Time magazine that administrators kept the school open so that the students would have somewhere to wait until they could be picked up by their families. “Our goal was to ensure that students could remain on campus and safe until such time that transportation arrangements could be made by families,” the spokesperson told Time.

A video recorded by a student showed that before parents were able to pick up them up, students were chaotically massed near the entrance, not patiently waiting in Pre-Calc. The students were supposed to have their midterm exams Monday, but they were cancelled, the Observer reported. A teacher at the school (in a reply to John Darnielle, the musician who performs as the Mountain Goats) said, “Butler is providing time for students to stay at the school to process instead of going home to an empty house,” and “Many students are being picked up, but not all have transportation, and for some, being with teachers and classmates is more comforting. It is not ‘classes as normal’ as this poorly worded announcement made it seem.”

There’s obviously no perfect way to respond to a school shooting. Maybe Butler should have been better organized or could have effectively communicated to the public what it was doing with students. But the bottom line is that schools are responsible for their kids’ safety until the final bell rings. Administrators had their reasons for keeping unaccompanied students on the campus, which was deemed secure, after the killing. Suffice to say, the day was hardly normal to anyone.