MATTHEWS, N.C. — Students, teachers and staff returned to Butler High School in Matthews Thursday morning, just three days after 16-year-old Bobby McKeithen was shot and killed during a fight Monday.
Early Thursday, a group of parents, students and Butler alumni held signs welcoming kids back to school after Monday's tragedy. All of the signs had encouraging comments, including some left by students of nearby schools.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Superintendent Dr. Clayton Wilcox thanked the Charlotte and Matthews communities for the outpouring of support for students and faculty at Butler over the past few days.
"The principal is meeting with every student in school to talk about the fact that we have to come together as a community and if you see something you have to say something and be supportive of one another," Wilcox said Thursday.
Wilcox said CMS has brought in extra guidance and crisis counselors for students who are struggling to cope with the loss of a classmate. Matthews Police has an increased presence on the campus of Butler and other schools in Matthews Thursday and Friday.
The community knows healing will take weeks and months, but when kids come through those doors in the morning, school officials want them to feel supported and safe. Wilcox said teachers are being trained on how to talk with students and let them know that "it's OK to be a little bit fearful and it's OK to have questions."
What happened Monday can't be undone.
16-year-old sophomore Bobby McKeithen was shot and killed when his classmate, Jatwan Craig Cuffee, pulled out a gun and shot him as the two fought in the hallway, according to police.
"It was a situation that should have never happened," Ashley Mewborn, the victim's mother said. "A child shouldn't have been able to walk in with a gun and be able to shoot my baby in his, just shoot him in his side and kill him."
Now Butler High is working to help students heal as they fight through the pain. According to the school's website, crisis counselors will be on hand from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Thursday and Friday.
Graffiti artist Abstract Dissent spent 10 hours on Wednesday painting a 60-foot mural so students would have something powerful and empowering to see.
Matthews Police Chief Clark Pennington welcomed students at the door. Once inside, students should expect assemblies all morning. The principal said he wants to speak with them directly.
"I think whether you knew him or not you're still hurting," said Blake Elizalde, a senior at Butler High. "He was part of the community. He was part of our school."
Dozens gathered on Thursday evening to grieve and remember McKeithen at a candlelight vigil.
No immediate changes to security have been announced, but Wilcox says metal detectors and other procedures are being discussed. Wilcox said Thursday CMS officials are considering a town meeting for parents of students at schools across the entire district to discuss how they plan to keep students and faculty safe.
"We'll probably also look at wands and random searches of kids," Wilcox said. "We'll look at perhaps the idea of only saying you can use a clear backpack."
Midterm exams have also been rescheduled. The school said, right now, the priority is meeting the students social and emotional needs.