Local News

Tuesday, Jan 15 2013 10:13 AM

Sadness, solidarity on display as classes resume at Taft Union High School

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    By Alex Horvath / The Californian

    Students, parents and teachers started the school day with prayer as Taft Union High School reopened Tuesday for the first time since Thursday's shooting that left one student critically injured.

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    By Alex Horvath / The Californian

    Students, parents and teachers started the school day with prayer as Taft Union High School reopened Tuesday for the first time since Thursday's shooting that left one student critically injured. Some students wore T-shirts in support of injured teen Bowe Cleveland.

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    By Alex Horvath / The Californian

    Students, parents and teachers started the school day with prayer at Taft Union High School when in January 2013 school reopened for the first time since the shooting that left one student critically injured. Some students wore T-shirts in support of injured teen Bowe Cleveland during this prayer time.

    click to expand click to collapse
  4. 4 of 10

    By Alex Horvath / The Californian

    Students, parents and teachers started the school day with prayer as Taft Union High School reopened Tuesday for the first time since Thursday's shooting that left one student critically injured. Some students wore T-shirts in support of injured teen Bowe Cleveland.

    click to expand click to collapse
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    By Alex Horvath / The Californian

    Taft Senior Kayla Schuyler lead students, parents and teachers in prayer at the start of the school day at Taft Union High School. The school reopened Tuesday for the first time since Thursday's shooting that left one student critically injured.

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  6. 6 of 10

    By Alex Horvath / The Californian

    Mitchell Ewberson hugs fellow student Sydney Long at the start of school. Taft Union High School reopened Tuesday for the first time since Thursday's shooting that left one student critically injured. Some students wore tee shirts in support of injured teen Bowe Cleveland.

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  7. 7 of 10

    By Alex Horvath / The Californian

    Thomas Summers was walking a beat around Taft area schools. Summers is part of group of serviceman called Veterans Against School Shooting. Summers' daughter was in the same classroom where Bowe Cleveland was shot. Taft Union High School reopened Tuesday for the first time since Thursday's shooting that left one student critically injured.

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  8. 8 of 10

    By Alex Horvath / The Californian

    Student Ahmed Alsabahi is interviewed about his return to school. Taft Union High School reopened Tuesday for the first time since Thursday's shooting that left one student critically injured.

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  9. 9 of 10

    By Alex Horvath / The Californian

    Student Stephanie Sandoval is interviewed about her return to school. Taft Union High School reopened Tuesday for the first time since Thursday's shooting that left one student critically injured.

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  10. 10 of 10

    By Alex Horvath / The Californian

    Parent Christi Huff is interviewed about students returning to school. Taft Union High school reopened Tuesday for the first time since Thursday's shooting that left one student critically injured.

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BY JASON KOTOWSKI Californian staff writer jkotowski@bakersfield.com

TAFT -- Sadness, anxiety and even some hope were evident Tuesday as Taft Union High School resumed classes for the first time since Thursday's shooting left a student in critical condition and another facing attempted murder charges.

"I'm scared," said senior Stephanie Sandoval. "I just hope nothing else bad happens."

Sandoval said she wasn't really prepared to go back yet, but Tuesday morning she gathered courage and walked toward the school's front doors on 1 Wildcat Way. The presence of Kern County sheriff's deputies at school entrances helped reassure her she'd be safe.

But she and others agreed it would be a long time before life here returned to normal. Several said how long it takes probably depends on the recovery of injured student Bowe Cleveland and his return to school.

Senior Kayla Schuyler stood by the school's front steps just before classes and, joined by dozens of others, offered prayers for Cleveland and the student body as a whole. She said the community has pulled together and everyone is offering support.

Schuyler said she cares for the wellbeing of her fellow students.

"I just don't want to see anyone hurting," she said.

Julie Gee, a freshman who knows Cleveland, described him as a "really nice" person. She said she was concerned that accused shooter Bryan Oliver, if acquitted of the charges he faces, could return to school.

The past few days have been tough.

"It was a lot of misery, sadness and stuff," Gee said.

Freshman Leslie Munoz said she thinks the worst that could have happened has already occurred. She said school security measures will probably end up being a lot more strict than they already were.

Ahmed Alsabahi, a sophomore, described Cleveland as the funniest guy you could hope to meet. He said he never saw Cleveland do anything he considered bullying, and he's still stunned that the shooting occurred, and that it happened in the classroom next to his.

At first he thought the shots were fake and part of a security drill, Alsabahi said. He never thought an actual shooting could occur here.

"It's Taft, what's going to happen?" he said.

Military veterans, some wearing fatigues, patrolled local schools. U.S. Army veteran Thomas Summers said he planned to walk around Roosevelt Elementary School all day and keep an eye out for anything suspicious.

He said more than 30 veterans were patrolling schools Tuesday. Summers had a personal reason for taking part -- his daughter, Jacqueline Summers, was in the classroom where the shooting happened.

"I get a phone call from my daughter screaming at the top of her lungs," Thomas Summers said. "I couldn't understand her."

When he'd calmed her down enough to get an explanation of what had happened, he rushed to the school. He said his daughter's a brave girl and wants everyone to know she's going to reach out and be a friend to everyone.

While most students seemed to take solace in coming together, questions remain about what will be done differently to help prevent future shootings. Parent Christi Huff said her daughter does not feel safe anymore and was up until 3 a.m. Tuesday crying and worrying about returning to classes.

Huff said school officials have said they'll meet with parents, but she believes that meeting should have been held before school reopened.

School officials have repeatedly declined to comment about the shooting. Principal Marilyn Brown, however, said attendance Tuesday was about the same as it was the last few days classes were held.

Attendance Tuesday was 96.93 percent, Brown said. On Jan. 8 and Jan. 9 attendance was 96.38 percent, and on Jan. 10, the day of the shooting, attendance was 97.04 percent. Kern County Superintendent of Schools spokesman Steve Sanders said average daily attendance at the school is 964 students.

The resumption of classes comes a day after Oliver, 16, was charged as an adult with two counts of attempted murder, two counts of assault with a gun in the wounding of one student and the targeting of another, and one count of assault with a gun in the wounding of teacher Ryan Heber. Oliver appeared in court Monday and defense attorney David A. Torres entered not guilty pleas on his behalf.

Authorities say Oliver showed up late to his first period class and opened fire with a shotgun, hitting Cleveland and grazing Heber. He also fired a shot at classmate Jacob Nichols but missed, authorities say.

Heber and campus supervisor Kim Fields were able to convince Oliver to drop the weapon, officials said. Taft police took Oliver into custody and he's since been placed in juvenile hall in lieu of $1.5 million bail.

Cleveland, 16, suffered injuries to his abdomen and chest. A Kern Medical Center surgeon said Monday that Cleveland remained in critical condition and is slowly being awakened from an induced coma he was placed in after surgery.

Sheriff Donny Youngblood has said Oliver's "perception" was that he'd been bullied for more than a year, and he had specific targets when he entered the classroom. A probable cause declaration filed in court says Oliver admitted to firing at Cleveland and NIchols because they "annoyed" and "bullied" him.

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