Children Return to School After Shooting
Greeted by teddy bears and extra security, Buell Elementary School children returned to class Monday for the first time since a first-grader was shot to death in a classroom.
Children and parents alike expressed fears at first about returning to the school where 6-year-old Kayla Rolland was killed Feb. 29, allegedly by another first-grader.
“He was afraid it was going to be him next,” Lisa Davidson said of her second-grade son, Tim.
Room 6, where the shooting occurred, had been cleaned and repainted. Trauma counselors with teddy bears were in each room to help the children, and by the lunch break, some children were skipping on the sidewalk out front.
Plainclothes and uniformed police officers were inside and outside the school. School Supt. Ira Rutherford said officials wanted to increase security without scaring the children by having too strong a police presence.
The 6-year-old boy accused of killing Kayla wasn’t at Buell or any other school Monday, and officials are determining his next step, Rutherford said.
The U.S. and Michigan flags remained at half-staff, and a nearby evergreen tree with stuffed animals at its base was decorated with pink ribbons in memory of Kayla.
“I saw laughter. I saw lots of hugs. It was a smooth opening,” said Susan Stuber, a spokeswoman for a neighboring school district helping out in Mount Morris Township.
Another memorial service was scheduled Monday night at a church across the street from Buell.
No charges are expected against the boy, who authorities have said is too young to understand what happened. A 19-year-old man living at the house where the boy had been staying has been charged with involuntary manslaughter for allegedly leaving the gun around.
The boy has been placed, along with his brother and sister, in the custody of an aunt.
Laura Simons, who is circulating a petition to place metal detectors, security cameras and more teacher’s aides in the school, said she plans to home-school her 8-year-old son until she is convinced the school is safe.
“If I send my kid to school, how do I know it’s not going to happen again?” Simons said. “He’s scared that if he sticks up for himself that he’s going to get hurt too.”
Experts said going back to school is an important part of dealing with the trauma.