Students wary, hopeful, on return to site of school shooting

  • Volunteers hang banners around the perimeter of Marjory Stoneman High School in Parkland, Fla., to welcome back students who will be returning to school Wednesday two weeks after the mass shooting that killed 17 students and staff. AP Photo

  • FILE - In this Feb. 19, 2018 file photo, Nikolas Cruz, accused of murdering 17 people in the Florida high school shooting, appears in court for a status hearing in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Cruz reportedly had a history of shooting small animals. While some animal welfare advocates question the usefulness of animal abuser registries, laws creating them have been passed in a growing number of municipalities in recent years with proponents citing studies linking animal cruelty to crimes ranging from domestic violence to mass shootings. (Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP, Pool, File) Mike Stocker

  • Coconut Creek Police Officer Michael Leonard speaks before the Broward County Commission meeting in Fort Lauderdale on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2018, after it was proclaimed that February 27 is Officer Michael Leonard and Coconut Creek Police Department Appreciation Day. Officer Leonard stopped Marjory Stoneman Douglas High gunman Nikolas Cruz. (Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP) Amy Beth Bennett

Associated Press
Wednesday, February 28, 2018

PARKLAND, Fla. — The walkway leading onto the campus of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is lined with flowers and photographs, memorials to the 17 students and teachers killed in a Valentine’s Day massacre that forever altered their lives and thrust them into the center of the nation’s gun debate.

Alexis Grogan, a 15-year-old sophomore, planned to wear a Stoneman Douglas color — maroon — on the first day back to class Wednesday, plus sneakers that say “MSD Strong, be positive, be passionate, be proud to be an eagle” and “2/14/18” in honor of those who died.

She feels nervous, like it might be too soon to go on as usual without slain friends like Luke Hoyer, who sat two seats behind her in Spanish. Still, the support from her fellow students, and their fight to strengthen gun control laws have buoyed her spirits.

“I am so proud of how the kids at my school have been fighting because we all want change to happen and, as we see the progression, it really shows us that people do care and they do hear what we have to say,” Grogan said in a text message.

The Douglas students return to school after a whirlwind of political activism that has reignited the nation’s gun and school-safety debate. Douglas sophomore Charlotte Dixon said some of her friends are having a hard time returning to classes. But like Grogan, they are encouraged by the attention to gun laws their actions have brought.

“I’m so glad that people are stepping forward and talking about it keeping it relevant ... because it shouldn’t happen to anyone ever again,” Dixon said.

On Tuesday, relatives of the Stoneman Douglas victims kept up the pressure in Florida’s capital with emotional testimony during a legislative hearing to discuss passing a bill that would, among other things, raise the age limit to buy long guns from 18 to 21. The bill also would create a program that allows teachers who receive law-enforcement training and are deputized by the local sheriff’s office to carry concealed weapons in the classroom, if also approved by the school district. The school’s superintendent has spoken out firmly against that measure.

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