Olathe East students return to class with a sense of disbelief after school shooting – ‘It didn’t seem real’

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By Bek Shackleford-Nwanganga

Students at Olathe East High School are trying to come to terms with a gunfight that injured three people on Friday morning.

Junior Allison Schmideskamp recalled the moment she found out her school was closed. Schmideskamp said an announcement went over the school intercom asking teachers to check their emails.

The email told teachers to lock the classroom doors, and Schmideskamp initially said no one in his class knew what was going on.

“It really didn’t seem real. Like in the beginning, we didn’t know anything, we didn’t know what was going on,” she said. “But when we found out, it really didn’t seem real.”

The Johnson County District Attorney filed charges Saturday against Jaylon Elmore, an 18-year-old student at Olathe East. Authorities allege Elmore shot a school resource officer, Erik Clark. Elmore and assistant manager Kaleb Stoppel were also injured.

Tyeson E. is a senior. Her parents asked KCUR not to publish her last name. Tyeson was near the office where the shooting occurred when he heard what he thought were gunshots.

“I could barely hear it because I had my headphones on walking to class, but I thought I heard something,” he said. “Then when I turned around, the teachers yelled, ‘No practice, go back to class.'”

Tyeson said the sound of gunfire put him in “survival mode”, but when he got to class he tried to calm down. He said he never imagined something like this happening at his school.

Other students were in disbelief.

Olathe East juniors Jack and Mike Robertson, who are twins, were in the hallway on another floor when other students ran in saying there was a police officer with an assault rifle. They returned to their classrooms not quite sure what to think.

“I think at first I was just in denial, I couldn’t believe this was really happening,” Mike Robertson said. “Over time, everyone’s anxiety kind of built up and it became a lot more real.”

Now that they know more details, the Robertson brothers are struggling to make sense of the shoot.

“It still hasn’t really affected me. It will take time, I’m sure,” said Jack Robertson.

On Saturday, the Olathe School District said in a statement that it was ready to welcome students back to school on Monday. The district said counseling services would be available for students and staff.

Students have mixed feelings about going back. Schmideskamp said it might take him a few days to pick up the pace of going to class.

“I’ll probably take it one day at a time and try not to think about it too much,” she said. “I’m sure I’ll go back, it’ll just be a bit nerve-wracking.”

Junior Lucas Rauscher, meanwhile, said he thinks going back and being with friends would be good for everyone.

“There’s not really a feeling of nervousness, like we’re all a community,” he said. “We just need to be there. We just need to be careful, to love each other, to care and to help each other. That’s really all it is.

Freshman Madeline Dorau said she feels safe and ready to return to school, but hopes the district will take more safety measures, such as installing metal detectors.

“There haven’t been, like, threats directly to our school, but there have been threats going around and people are getting nervous,” Dorau said. “And so I think having, like, metal detectors or that sort of thing would definitely help.”

Mike Robertson said he wanted the incident to spark conversations about school shootings and gun control.

“I really hope it’s not ignored because it’s something that, for example, can’t be ignored and needs to be paid attention to,” he said. “That’s all I really hope the school looks like.”

KCUR 89.3 is Kansas City’s NPR-affiliated public radio station. You can read and listen to more of their stories at kcur.org.

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