Students In Parkland Prepare To Return To Class
LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
On Friday, teachers returned to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Fla. Students will be back on campus this week for the first time since the attack that killed 17 people. Jessica Bakeman from member station WLRN reports from Parkland, where people who lived through the shooting are worried about how they'll react to being back at school with such traumatic memories.
JESSICA BAKEMAN, BYLINE: Sarah Lerner felt like she had processed what happened. She didn't expect to feel so overwhelmed when she was back in her classroom, where she had sheltered 15 students during the nation's deadliest high school shooting.
SARAH LERNER: It just - it was like time stood still.
BAKEMAN: Quizzes were still on her students' desks, their backpacks scattered around the room and cell phones plugged into electrical outlets. The date was still on the board - Feb. 14.
LERNER: And I started to have, like, a panic attack or an anxiety attack. And I just - like, I felt like I couldn't breathe. Then I just walked out. I couldn't stay anymore. I'm kind of glad that it happened when I was alone in the room and not for the first time when I had students in the room.
BAKEMAN: Since the shooting, Lerner, an English and journalism teacher, has heard from her students nonstop, sometimes getting texts or calls in the middle of the night. They're scared they'll be reminded of their trauma when they get back on campus.
LERNER: I have students who don't want to go back in the classroom where they were held, don't want to go back in the closet where they were hiding, don't want to be in the auditorium because they were hiding in there.
BAKEMAN: While lawmakers in Washington and Tallahassee are grappling with proposals to arm teachers or raise the age limits for buying guns, the school students and staff are preparing for a long recovery. That starts with going back to school.
ROBERT RUNCIE: If there is a student that absolutely does not want to return to the school, we're going to work with them to pursue other options.
BAKEMAN: Robert Runcie is Broward County Schools superintendent. His administration has rearranged the schedule, so no one will have to set foot back in the building where most of the bloodshed took place. He's also ramped up security and mental health services.
RUNCIE: Students that I've talked to - they're pretty adamant about getting back to school and reclaiming Marjory Stoneman Douglas.
(SOUNDBITE OF RALLY)
UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) You are responsible. You are responsible.
BAKEMAN: At a gun control rally in Fort Lauderdale last weekend, a pair of siblings who go to Stoneman Douglas felt determined to return - senior Diego Pfeiffer perhaps a bit more than his younger sister Isabella.
DIEGO PFEIFFER: Of course, I feel scared. And, of course, there's nothing that can ever, like, make me feel completely safe again. But I want to go back. And I want to make more good memories at Douglas.
BAKEMAN: Isabella is a junior. And she said she's terrified of being on campus again. But she feels like her classmates and teachers there are the only ones in the world who can understand what she's going through.
ISABELLA PFEIFFER: It's like a home but that's kind of been torn down, if that makes any sense at all.
BAKEMAN: Her brother nodded and reassured her, it's still our home. For NPR News, I'm Jessica Bakeman in Parkland, Fla.
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