Local News

Sunday, Feb 10 2013 12:15 AM

Taft Union High buoyed by show of support

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    By Felix Adamo / The Californian

    Taft Union High School Principal Marilyn Brown.

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    By Felix Adamo / The Californian

    The hallways of Taft Union High School are lined with cards and banners from other schools showing their support following the shooting on campus last month. This banner was from Chipman Junior High in Bakersfield.

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    By Felix Adamo / The Californian

    Taft Union High School freshmen Julio Castro and Edgar Ruiz recall last month's shooting.

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BY JASON KOTOWSKI Californian staff writer jkotowski@bakersfield.com

TAFT -- The walls of the hallway just inside the main entrance to Taft Union High School are filled with banners with written messages of support from around the country.

Principal Marilyn Brown said she's even been contacted by the new principal of Sandy Hook Elementary, where 20 students and six adults were shot and killed.

"I remember feeling encouraged by (his message)," Brown said Wednesday.

Today marks a month since police say a student entered Taft Union High with a shotgun and opened fire in a classroom. Critically injured was student Bowe Cleveland, who has been slowly recuperating but faces months of rehabilitation.

Brown said the campus is slowly healing.

"The mood is moving back to normal," she said.

Therapy dogs -- Frank, Jocko, Tiger Woods and Stony -- and counselors have been to the campus to help students struggling to cope with what happened. Project Linus donated more than 900 blankets for students.

All regularly scheduled school activities are taking place, Brown said. She described students as "moving along and doing well."

Freshman Edgar Ruiz said he was at first a little nervous upon coming back to school, but at this point he feels safe. He liked seeing the therapy dogs on campus.

Julio Castro, another freshman, said he thinks things are back to being about the same as they were before the shooting.

He also feels safe.

"I have Jesus in my heart," he said.

It's clear some students would rather not talk about what happened. Several replied with a brusque "no" and continued walking when asked if they'd like to talk about their experiences. Some said they'd been told by school administrators not to speak with the media.

Freshman Erika Amaya agreed to talk, but her sister told her not to.

"You guys are pathetic," the sister said to a reporter. "You already have your story."

Others, however, were willing to talk, and it was clear not all the horror of that day is gone.

Tuttianna Tauta said the past month has been very hard. The junior is now being home-schooled because she and her mom don't want her to return to Taft Union because of the shooting. Next year she'll live outside the county with her father and will attend a new school.

Tauta was in the same classroom as Cleveland when the shooting began. She ran from the room and injured herself running down the stairs.

She said she still has a difficult time sleeping, and jumps at even small noises.

"She comes in the room and wakes me up," said Easter Weber, Tauta's mother.

Weber said her daughter often doesn't fall asleep until 5 or 6 a.m. She said she's glad Tauta will be going to school in a bigger city next year because school shootings mostly seem to take place in small towns.

Authorities have said Bryan Oliver, 16, shot Cleveland and fired at but missed student Jacob Nichols on Jan. 10. Shotgun pellets grazed teacher Ryan Heber, who, along with campus supervisor Kim Fields, convinced Oliver to drop the gun, law enforcement officials have said.

Oliver has pleaded not guilty to two counts of attempted murder and three counts of assault with a gun on a person. His next court date is Feb. 20.

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