By Tyler Leeds
About 40 Bend High School students made it to Bear Creek Elementary on Saturday to meet with counselors following Friday’s tragedy at the nearby high school.
Around noon on Friday, a male Bend High student committed suicide with a firearm in a classroom occupied by other students. The shooting occurred inside one of the school’s modular units adjacent to the main building, triggering a schoolwide lockdown that lasted more than two hours.
Saturday, counselors from Deschutes Behavioral Health and the volunteer Tri-County School Response Team, a group sponsored by the High Desert Education Service District, were available at Bear Creek to meet with anyone affected.
“When somebody came in, folks would greet them in the lobby and direct them somewhere, so we could assess where they were at and listen to them,” said Sean Reinhart, director of special programs for Bend-La Pine Schools. “Some kids met with counselors individually, while others met in groups.”
Reinhart said both Deschutes Behavior Health and the Tri-County School Response Team will continue to be available to students at Bend High next week.
“We’ll run the school day on a regular schedule and have a support room where students and staff can go to get support and get help processing the events,” Reinhart said.
Counselors also will be available to come into classrooms; Reinhart said he did not know of any special plan for the class that witnessed the shooting.
Bend-La Pine Schools Board Chairwoman Cheri Helt emphasized the district’s commitment to continuing to provide grief services, saying, “The board’s main focus will be making sure we have counseling services available for all people affected by this awful tragedy.”
“I don’t know all the details, nor do I think anyone does at this point in the investigation. But once we see what it uncovers, we will also have the relevant conversations about school security and mental health,” Helt said. “But at the board level, the security and health of our students is always our main priority.”
Interim Bend Police Chief Jim Porter said police are following up on final leads and writing reports on the incident at Bend High School. “We are no longer actively investigating,” Porter said Saturday. There were two incidents in the past three years in which students brought guns to school in Bend, the chief said. However, in both cases the students left the weapons in their cars, and police investigations determined the students did not have any criminal intent.
As the grieving process following Friday’s shooting continues, students from across the district have begun organizing a show of support for those affected at Bend High. At Summit High School, junior Casey Apregan first heard something was wrong just before 1 p.m. Friday, when texts and rumors raised the possibility of something as severe as a school shooting and as relatively trivial as a bad car crash, she said.
“For a while, no one really knew what was happening, but everyone was talking about it,” Apregan said. “I had a couple of teachers who finally said there was an incident with a firearm, but that nobody was in danger.”
Reflecting on the events afterward, Apregan and two classmates, Kim Peoples and Taylor Warden, decided to organize a “Blue and Gold” day this Tuesday via Facebook to honor Bend High’s colors and community.
“We were just talking about how horrible it was, and so we decided to do something,” Apregan said. “There’s obviously a rivalry between all the schools in sports, but we still all live in Bend and everyone has friends at all three of the high schools. We wanted to show we’re rooting for them.”
Jasmine Manns, a senior at Bend High, said in an email, “This show of unity will mean that regardless of school rivalries, we are all part of an awesome community that loves and supports its students.”
“We have to support each other, because no one really knows how to handle this emotionally,” Manns added.
Manns’ account of Friday’s event offers a window into what the experience was like for students in the school and the inner challenges they continue to face.
“When the principal came over the loudspeaker announcing the lockdown, he sounded scared, and he didn’t say it was a drill, so I immediately knew something was wrong,” Manns wrote. “We were just sitting in our classroom texting our parents and friends, making sure everyone knew we were okay and checking on our friends. Rumors starting flying and that was all we had to go on. It was horrible, because we were all glad that (we) were safe; selfishly, we were glad it was not an intruder. I will never forget what happened.”
After being reunited with her mother, Mann said she “cried and cried” upon realizing the deceased student’s mother “won’t ever be able to hug him again.”
Manns was positive there was something to be learned from Friday’s tragedy.
“I think the biggest lesson we have to take away from this is that anyone can be hurting and not show it,” Manns wrote. “We need to go the extra mile and get out of our comfort zones. Talk to people we normally wouldn’t, smile a lot, even when you don’t feel like it. Take your earbuds out and look up from your phone. Take stock of your blessings and spread love to those who seem down or sad, and just everyone in general. Be encouraging, thoughtful, and kind. Forget about looking cool, having swag, or being popular. Try being human.”
— Reporter: 541-633-2160, email@example.com
Hillary Borrud contributed to this report.