Less than three months ago, students at Lewis and Clark High School walked out of class to protest gun violence.
On Wednesday, they were held fast by fear. More than half stayed home; the rest tried to embrace normalcy on a day that was anything but.
From the beefed-up security to the half-empty classrooms – the result of a shooting threat police allege was posted by an LC student the night before on social media – this was no ordinary school day.
“I think it gave me some peace of mind to come to school today,” senior Isabella Liska said at the end of the day as classmates descended the stairs at the main entrance on Fourth Avenue.
“Staying at home, I would have been more nervous,” Liska said. “But having the doors locked, that really helped with the anxiety.”
Additional security also eased fears.
Sophomore Austin Runkle said he heard the message, a robocall sent to LC parents Tuesday night. “But I wasn’t really concerned.
“I felt safe, and I felt that if anything did happen, I felt they would take care of it.”
Junior Kelsi McCracken tried to be pragmatic.
“I had to get things done,” McCracken said. “I think it’s valid that people are feeling afraid, but school shootings don’t usually start with a social media post.”
Still, McCracken missed her classmates. Of 65 students in her first-period choir class, only 18 showed.
It was the same experience for Liska.
“Teachers realized what was going on, so they made it an easy day,” she said.
It wasn’t an easy day for Principal Marybeth Smith, who lamented the lost opportunities for her students to learn and live.
“It’s spring,” Smith said as she glanced outside. “Kids should be out enjoying and getting the last bits of their school year, so I want to make sure that happens as normally as possible.”
Smith and her staff did their best on a frustrating day. They reassured staff, students and parents while communicating with law enforcement and officials at Spokane Public Schools.
“It’s wrong that in a school of (1,732) kids, instead of doing what they need to focus on, are sitting at home or sitting in class thinking that this feels really icky,” Smith said.
Despite the promise of heavy security, 982 students or 57 percent, stayed home.
“We have a number of families who say, ‘I want to keep my eyes on my kid today,’ and I totally respect that,” Smith said.
Just as her classmates were leaving, sophomore Sophie Lindner came by to drop off paperwork.
“I didn’t come because my mom was pretty scared,” Lindner said.
Many gave voice to those fears on social media.
After exchanging messages with classmates late Tuesday night, sophomore Amelia Crawford-Heim shared them on Facebook. She also bared her feelings about deciding not to go to school.
“I spent all of last night crying because of how scared I was,” Crawford-Heim posted. “I should not have to sit at home, waiting anxiously for their check-in texts to make sure they’re OK.”
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