Woodward, Okla. —
By Mark Rountree
CNHI News Service
STILLWATER — Stillwater Junior High School Principal Trent Swanson seeks the answer to a basic question — Why? — a day after an eighth-grader died at the school from a self-inflicted gunshot.
“I really don’t know why,” said Swanson.
Stillwater Junior High student Cade Poulos, 13, died from a self-inflicted gunshot to the head in a school hallway approximately 10 minutes before classes were to begin on Wednesday.
Trying to understand why one of their classmates took his own life inside the school is a question many junior high students are likely asking themselves.
To help them understand those questions, the school system is providing additional counselors at the school Thursday.
The superintendent said students are social and returning to school should help them start the healing process.
School officials said will continue efforts to keep students safe.
Metal detectors are not used in any Stillwater’s schools, but Caine said the school board discussed the issue during an emergency meeting Wednesday afternoon.
“There is not a product available that can keep a weapon out if a person wants to bring a weapon into school,” Caine said.
Caine said installing metal detectors is possible.
“We’ll see if that’s something that’s needed,” she said.
There isn’t any evidence that Poulos was being bullied, Caine said, but the district will continue to monitor the situation and cooperate with the Stillwater Police Department’s investigation.
The school system didn’t have any record Poulos was being bullied, Caine said. Bullying incidents are supposed to be immediately reported according to school district policy.
“At this time, there is no indication that that’s what occurred,” Caine said.
There also isn’t any indication additional junior high students were involved, district officials said in a press release.
Swanson said no other junior high student was placed in danger by the shooting incident.
Caine said the impact academically on school curriculum and school calendar is a secondary concern now.
“We’re not worrying about academics at this point,” she said.
Swanson said teachers will use their “best professional judgment” in deciding how much work is to be done in class.
“They will work to find the right approach to take with each class,” said Swanson.
Swanson said that he knew Poulos but had not created a bond with the eighth-grader, yet. Eighth- and ninth-grade students attend the junior high school.
“I knew his older brother and sister,” Swanson said. “They went to junior high here.”
An action plan, Swanson said, is in place to handle student questions and concerns.
“This was a tragic incident,” Caine said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families.”
Poulos was remembered as a good student with brilliant red hair and winning smile, Caine said during a Wednesday afternoon press conference.
Stillwater police spokesman Capt. Randy Dickerson said the school resource officer at the junior high school heard the shot and rushed to the scene.
“He was in an adjacent hallway at the time,” Dickerson said, “and went down and found a 13-year-old student with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.”
Medical personnel declared the student, later identified as Poulos, dead at the scene.
Dickerson and Caine praised the school system’s emergency response plan. The school was immediately placed in lock down. Students went into classrooms, the lights turned off and doors locked as Stillwater police assessed the situation.
Stillwater ninth-grader Logan Fleisher said the lock-down announcement was made over the school’s public address system.
“It was 7:58 a.m. when they called over the PA system. They said go to the nearest classroom, turn out the lights and lock the door,” Fleisher said.
Fleisher said the lockdown lasted until about 9 a.m.
When it became apparent that the gun shot was self-inflicted, students were loaded onto school buses and transported to an evacuation zone where they were reunited with their parents, Caine said.
The emergency response system “worked beautifully,” Caine said.
“Within an hour,” Caine said, “Trent Swanson, our junior high principal, used the school message system to send an email and phone calls to all of our junior high parents to let them know this situation had occurred and that they could pick up their children at Cimarron (Plaza).”
State Sen. Jim Halligan, R-Stillwater, arrived at the evacuation area shortly after 9 a.m. Wednesday. The former Oklahoma State University president said the coordination between school officials and police was impressive.
“It has been emotional to be able to see the reunion of parents and children,” Halligan said.
Stillwater Junior High students said the shooting caught them off-guard.
“Everyone thought it was a joke at first,” ninth-grader Ashlyn Lundholm said. “Then, I heard people screaming. Then, we went to lockdown for 35 to 40 minutes.”
An eighth-grade student said he witnessed the shooting.
“I saw him on the ground,” Aaron Veselak said. “There was blood all around his head.”
NewsPress reporter Chase Rheam contributed to this report.
Woodward, Okla. —
By Mark Rountree
- Local News
Fire chief says search almost complete in Oklahoma
MOORE, Okla. (AP) — The search for survivors and the dead is nearly complete in the Oklahoma City suburb that was smashed by a mammoth tornado, the fire chief said Tuesday.
Gary Bird said he's "98 percent sure" there are no more survivors or bodies to recover under the rubble in Moore, a community of 56,000 people.
Local church to hold prayer vigil for Moore tornado victims
The First Christian Church in Woodward will be holding a prayer vigil tonight at 6 p.m. in support of the victims of the tornado that struck Moore on Monday.
Donations being taken at armory today
If you would like to send items to help the victims of Monday's tornado that ripped through Moore, donations are being accepted at the old armory building at Crystal Beach Park through 5 p.m. today.
Crews dig through night after deadly Okla. twister
MOORE, Okla. (AP) — Spotlights bore down on massive piles of shredded cinder block, insulation and metal as crews worked through the night early Tuesday lifting bricks and parts of collapsed walls where a monstrous tornado barreled through the Oklahoma City suburbs, demolishing an elementary school and reducing homes to piles of splintered wood. At least 51 people were killed, including at least 20 children, and those numbers were expected to climb, officials said.
Woodward County fire departments send assistance to Moore
A search and rescue task force from Woodward County was deployed to help assist with the response to the devastating tornado that ripped through Moore and south Oklahoma City Monday afternoon.
Police: School near OKC directly hit by tornado
MOORE, Okla. (AP) — Authorities say an elementary school in an Oklahoma City suburb took a direct hit from a mile-wide tornado.
Projects on city agenda
Renovation and construction projects are the theme for the Woodward City Commission's regular meeting Monday at 7 p.m. in City Hall.
Museum hosting history lectures
If you've lived here long enough then you've surely heard about Woodward's "favorite son" Temple Houston, his famous "Soiled Dove" speech, and his infamous shootout with the Jennings brothers.
Season approaching for Farmer’s Market
The Woodward Farmer's Market will be in a new location when it opens for the 2013 season on May 25.
Routine items on agenda
The Board of Woodward County Commissioners will address a number of routine annual items during their regular meeting at 10 a.m. Monday at the county courthouse.
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- Fire chief says search almost complete in Oklahoma