For Parkland students, a ‘normal’ school year might be too much to ask

The students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School just want a normal school year.

But as they return to class on Wednesday, six months and one day after a shooting at their Parkland, Florida high school killed 17 people and wounded 17 more, several students said “normal” still feels out of reach.

“At the end of the day, I’m not going to feel safe at school because I don’t feel safe anywhere,” Jaclyn Corin, 17, a senior and March for Our Lives activist whose friend Joaquin Oliver was killed in the shooting, said.

Haylee Shepherd, 16, a junior who was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after hearing the gunfire from her classroom, was not able to return to class last school year — whenever she approached the building, she began crying and had to turn around. Shepherd plans to finally go back for the first day of school, with her service dog, Spree, at her side to keep her calm.

“I think having Spree with me will help, but I’m sure I’ll still be a little nervous,” Shepherd said. “But honestly, Douglas is probably the safest school to be at right now.”

Haylee Shepherd, 16, a junior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, with her service dog, Spree.Courtesy Haylee Shepherd

Still, several students said they’re concerned about how new security measures will affect their routine, while others said they’re nervous about returning to a normal academic workload, which never fully occurred last school year after the shooting.

Some teachers said they’re worried about how to address the shooting with their students, with many apprehensive about the school’s plan to resume Code Red drills, which aim to prepare students and staff for a campus intruder but could trigger students’ anxiety. The school didn’t do any Code Red drills after the shooting but teachers said they will do 10 this school year, and some said they worry the drills could trigger anxiety.



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