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Event Saturday focuses on school safety

Student Walkouts Gun Violence Colorado-5

South Florida area high school graduate Becky Van Horn, 24, who now lives in Breckenridge, Colo., holds a sign to remember her late coach Chris Hixon, who was killed in the shooting shooting in Parkland, Florida last month, during a National School Walkout Day protest Wednesday, March 14, in Frisco, Colo. School students participated in a nationwide rally for 17-minutes, one minute for each student killed in the recent school shooting. (Hugh Carey/Summit Daily News via AP)


By Brian Wudkwych
The Daily Reflector

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

As parents and community organizers prepare to take part in a Saturday demonstration prompted by the Parkland, Florida, school shooting, another shooting, this one at school in Maryland on Tuesday, validated calls for more school resource officers, an official said.

More than 100 people are expected in downtown Greenville Saturday as part of the national March For Our Lives demonstration. Thousands are expected in Washington, D.C., and in cities across the country to call on Congress to enact gun control legislation.

The Greenville event, set to run from noon to 3 p.m. at the Pitt County Courthouse, will gathers students, parents and social and religious groups to remember the 17 people killed in Florida and many others killed in similar shootings.

“We have a number of different speakers from different age groups,” said Liza Hardy-Braz, one of the organizers. “Clearly we will be honoring what the Parkland shooting survivors wanted, which was for this to be a student-led event. We also want to include the community because that’s what this is about, creating bonds within the community.” 

Organizers said the demonstration will not be political in nature. Faye Bordeaux said that it would instead be a chance to demonstrate the desire to better protect schools, be it through increased counseling efforts, building sympathy or even supporting more student resource officers.

A school resource officer fired on a teenager armed with a handgun inside a Maryland school on Tuesday after the teen shot and critically wounded a classmate. Another student also was shot. The officer was credited with stopping the shooter.

The Pitt County Board of Education members on Monday grappled the prospect of hiring and paying officers to patrol each of the county’s 39 school facilities and implementing other measures to improve security.

Board member Worth Forbes, interviews after Tuesday’s shooting, said that community input is going to determine what measures are feasible, and Saturday’s events will play a role. “I think just helps forward our cause,” he said.

He said increasing the number of school resource officers has been the most common request among his constituents. The idea also has gained favor with other school board members. 

Tuesday’s actions by the officer in Maryland validate the expense, he said. 

“This was an example where it paid off,” Forbes said. “To me, it was worth every penny that officer cost that system, to be able to save those children.”

Saturday’s event downtown also is expected to see considerable turnout from East Carolina University students, Pitt County NAACP and local faith groups.

Churches Outreach Network has distributed flyers promoting the event, but Rev. Rodney Coles emphasized the need to let the students lead it and control the narrative.

“They are coming in full force,” he said. “They believe in collaboration. It’s about what is right and that’s very important. This is for their generation, this is not my time. I see the power, the commitment, the consistency. They’re fighting.”

Calvin Henderson, president of the Pitt County NAACP, said ECU students have requested the organization’s support and presence. Henderson and other members plan to be there.

“People need to realize that all our lives matter,” he said. “They need to realize that we can all come together to send a message of what our concerns are when it comes to what has happened across the country with our young people and they way they are coming out, advocating against guns in schools and gun control. It’s important for us to realize that we need to get behind them and support them in this effort.” 

Bordeaux has a daughter at The Oakwood School and is helping organize the march. She said that the community reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. But most importantly, she said the fear of something happening in her own community has driven parents to support the cause. 

“It’s scary; it’s frightening and it’s scary,” Bordeaux said. “This is our way of doing something. We don’t want to sit idly by and have our kids afraid to go to school, come home nervous, all shaken up. When you do something for a cause, that helps you feel empowered, hopeful.”

Contact Brian Wudkwych at bwudkwych@reflector.com or 252-329-9567 and follow @brianwudkwych on Twitter.