Richland County school district that lost students to violence reacts to Texas shooting

·3 min read

After 21 people were killed by a gunman at an elementary school in Texas Tuesday, the Richland 1 School District superintendent responded to the shooting and discussed the safety of his South Carolina schools in a letter to parents.

“Once again we find ourselves asking ‘why?’ in the aftermath of an unfathomable act of violence and loss of life,” Richland 1 Superintendent Dr. Craig Witherspoon said in the letter. “Twenty-one families in Uvalde, Texas who fully expected their loved ones to return home from school yesterday are grieving their deaths instead.”

An 18-year-old gunman shot and killed at least 19 children and two adults Tuesday afternoon in what was called the deadliest school shooting since a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, almost a decade ago.

The shooter, who was ultimately shot and killed by law enforcement who responded to the scene, entered Robb Elementary School in Uvalde with a handgun, rifle and wore body armor.

“There is no conceivable justification for this senseless tragedy,” Witherspoon said. “We extend our condolences to the families, the students and staff at Robb Elementary, and the entire Uvalde community.”

Richland 1 Superintendent Craig Witherspoon, shown in this file photo, reacted to the deadly school shooting in Texas.
Richland 1 Superintendent Craig Witherspoon, shown in this file photo, reacted to the deadly school shooting in Texas.

Richland 1 Student Deaths

Richland 1 also has recently mourned the violent deaths of students, although none was killed on school campuses. Four students have been killed in the past two months.

Most recently, Bertrand T. Ganaway III, a 17-year-old Columbia resident, was killed Saturday in a shooting. Ganaway was a senior at Eau Claire High School and was scheduled to graduate next week.

On May 5, another Eau Claire senior, 18-year-old Shaneal Brown, and her 83-year-old grandmother Jessie Brown, were killed by her father Rafael Brown, 44, according to the Richland County Sheriff’s Department.

In a four-day stretch in April, two teenagers who were also Richland 1 students were killed in separate shootings.

Columbia High School student De’Marion Corbett, 16, was killed in an April 20 shooting, while two other teenagers, ages 17 and 18, were also hit by gunfire and injured in the incident at the Riverside Apartments.

On April 17, the body of Desmond Wilson, a 17-year-old junior at Lower Richland High School, was discovered on the ground of an apartment building’s breezeway after he had been shot.

Security Plans and Counseling

In his letter to parents, Witherspoon went over some of the security measures in place to keep Richland 1 schools safe.

All schools have safety and emergency plans and procedures that are reviewed regularly and updated as needed, according to Witherspoon. Richland 1 also has “a strong partnership with local law enforcement agencies,” and Witherspoon said the district is thankful to have school resource officers in its schools.

“We are also piloting the use of metal detectors,” Witherspoon said. “In Richland One, we are committed to doing all we can to ensure that our students and staff are safe at school.”

Although Uvalde is more than 1,200 miles away from Richland County, Witherspoon said students in his district could be affected by the deadly shooting.

“When horrific incidents like this occur, they can breed fear and anxiety no matter how far away they happened,” Witherspoon said. “Children especially may have difficulty processing the news of a mass school shooting.”

Richland 1 offers support to students in the form of school counselors, school psychologists and other members of our Student Support Services team, according to Witherspoon. The superintendent also said there are online resources available for parents and school staff, including through the National Association of School Psychologists.

“As we close out the last days of the 2021-2022 school year, please keep the people of Uvalde, Texas in your thoughts and prayers,” Witherspoon said.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting