Tuesday, February 27, 2024

‘Safety is our top priority’: NHHS principal pens message to students after first day back since shooting

New Hanover High School students returned to class Wednesday with increased security presence. (Port City Daily/Shea Carver)

WILMINGTON — Students returned to New Hanover High School campus Wednesday with increased security in place, after a shooting left one student injured and another charged with carrying and discharging a weapon on school grounds, attempted first-degree murder, and assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill and inflict serious injury.

Monday’s altercation ended in open fire in the New Hanover catwalk, which crosses Market Street, between 2nd and 3rd periods. A group of kids fought in the breezeway, with one 15-year-old allegedly shooting a gun that struck another student in the hand and the leg; the victim was transported to NHRMC with non-life-threatening injuries.

According to principal Phillip Sutton, who published a message on the school website Wednesday evening, students are now being rerouted during class changes to avoid that portion of the catwalk where the incident happened.

“We are investigating all students involved in this altercation and we will be following district policy to ensure safety on this campus. Safety is our top priority,” he wrote. “Any student identified as a participant in Monday’s incident, or any such incident of violence, will not remain on this campus.”

Students weren’t required in classes on Tuesday, which acted as a teacher workday. Staff used the time to work with the New Hanover County Schools Crisis and Intervention Team to address best practices to comfort students and offer help and resources to work through trauma.

Sutton recognized the hardships students faced upon heading back to the hallways today, saying it “was not an easy choice, but we appreciate the faith and trust students and families have placed in us.” The crisis team was available Tuesday, Wednesday and will continue to be on campus through the end of the week, he wrote.

Echoing the sentiments from the New Hanover County Schools press conference Monday evening, Sutton iterated: “We’ve all practiced the drills, and many of our students and staff have even been in lock down or shelter in place situations, still nothing could have prepared us for the intensity, heartbreak, and fear of that situation.”

As such, more safety measures were implemented Wednesday:

  • Law enforcement presence increased on campus and will remain as long as deemed necessary. 
  • School administrators have and will continue to review duty stations for additional visibility and supervision. 
  • School and district administrators are discussing additional resources that may be needed to support ongoing safety efforts. 
  • The district will continue to offer crisis team support as long as students continue to utilize these resources.

Sutton thanked the students for rising above the stressors and pressures of Monday and vowed local leadership are looking at strengthening its safeguards for both staff and students through more community partnerships and resources. He also asked families to continue providing and expanding support.

“[K]eep open lines of communication with your children,” Sutton added. “Talk to them often and too much. If you notice any behavioral changes such as withdrawal, irritability, or changes in eating or sleep patterns, or if your child is not comfortable returning to school, reach out to our Student Support Services staff and they will provide options for emotional and academic support for your family.” 

A crisis help line is open weekdays, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., in English and Spanish, to students, parents, and staff at (910) 798-6501. For crisis assistance outside of school or the call center’s hours, Trillium Health Resources Access Center is open at (877) 685-2415.

Catch up on PCD’s coverage of the NHHS shooting from Monday:

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Shea Carver
Shea Carver
Shea Carver is the editor in chief at Port City Daily. A UNCW alumna, Shea worked in the print media business in Wilmington for 22 years before joining the PCD team in October 2020. She specializes in arts coverage — music, film, literature, theatre — the dining scene, and can often be tapped on where to go, what to do and who to see in Wilmington. When she isn’t hanging with her pup, Shadow Wolf, tending the garden or spinning vinyl, she’s attending concerts and live theater.

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