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Los Angeles schools are back in session, but violence seems closer to home

At Thomas Starr King Middle School in Los Feliz on Wednesday morning, a stream of students trudged past taped handmade “NO SCHOOL TODAY” signs, dated Tuesday.

Julio Felipe, 13, ticked away the final moments before first bell with his friends in front of the school steps, his tongue stained electric blue from a morning lollipop.

He had followed some of the news about the shooting in San Bernardino, but the danger still felt distant to him, he said. The threat on Los Angeles Unified schools that shut down the school system Tuesday was little more than an unexpected day off. He said he spent it reading “Catcher in the Rye.”

“I feel like this school is safe,” he said. “Out of all the schools in L.A., why would it be ours [that would be targeted]?”

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After a day of disruption for students, parents and teachers, Los Angeles public schools reopened Wednesday morning. As the day began, Deputy Superintendent Michelle King released a statement reassuring the city that “all schools are open, and operating on a regular schedule this morning.” The city promised an increased police presence, in an effort to transition students back into the rhythm of a threat-free school day.

Thomas Starr King Principal Mark Naulls said the middle school, which withnearly 2,000 students is one of the district’s largest, was functioning as usual. Though the district has beefed up security patrols around the school, he said the staff was trying to “get back a sense of normalcy.”

“The kids are in good spirits, and we just want to keep it that way,” he said.

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Naulls said he agreed with the decision to close the schools. “LAUSD erred on the side of caution, and I don’t think many parents would disagree with that,” he said.

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Max Graenitz, whose daughter attends the school, agreed. “They’re being overcautious, but I don’t mind, even if it turns out to be fake,” he said.

The shootings in San Bernardino were disturbing, but he finds himself growing accustomed to these types of tragedies. “Shootings are random and unpredictable,” he said. “I find that more scary than a terrorist threat.” He said he felt more threatened since it seems like violence keeps striking a few inches closer to home.

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Madeline Harmon and Lian Macdonough dropped off their kids and lingered outside Harmon’s black SUV. Despite the promise of more police patrols around school campuses, they said they noticed a lack of any visible security presence.

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“Do we feel safe? No,” Harmon said. She criticized the district for failing to act the night the threat was received. “How do I know there’s not a bomb on the soccer field right now?”

The attacks in San Bernardino have set Harmon and her son on edge, but she said there were plenty of other reasons to be scared. “It’s not just San Bernardino. [There is also] Columbine, Sandy Hook. Look at how many schools have been attacked in the last five years,” Harmon said. “I’m afraid because you just don’t know what can happen.”

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MORE ON THE L.A.U.S.D. CLOSURE

L.A. defends response to threat that New York dismissed as a hoax

L.A. school district could close two schools because of Porter Ranch gas leak

A timeline of how the Los Angeles school district told parents to keep their kids home

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