Taft High will not observe first anniversary of shooting'

This Friday, January 10, is the first anniversary of the shooting at Taft Union High School.

The shooting left one student critically injured, the alleged shooter facing trial as an adult and traumatized the school and the town.

The entire town nearly came to a standstill as hundreds of parents and community members converged on the streets surrounding the school, trying to connect with loved ones on campus.

Many students spent several hours huddled in darkened classrooms until they were brought out.

More than 100 local, Kern County, state and federal law enforcement officers responded.

It was a day no one in Taft will forget.

Taft High, of course, will not forget it, either, but the school, its staff and students will not be observing the anniversary – not directly anyway.

“We are not going to recognize the day at all because it doesn't deserve any recognition at all,” Superintendent Blanca Cavazos said. “A negative thing happened.”

Instead, January is going to be “random Acts of Kindness Month” at TUHS.

Earlier discussions of how to observe the day ended with input from the students who were in the classroom on the second floor of the science building where Bowe Cleveland was shot at nearly point blank range with a shotgun.

“We had talks with all the students (who were in the classroom). They were adamant – they didn't want any recognition of the day,” Cavazos said.

The district had earlier been planning ways to mark the first anniversary of the shooting.

At a June meeting of the TUHS Governing Board, Cavazos said there were discussions underway on how to mark the one-year anniversary of the event.

Students had already expressed uncertainty at the time, she told the board.

“I think its very critical that we do not let that day go unnoticed, but that we take control of it,” Cavazos said. “That day took control of us.”

That thinking has changed over time, however. Cavazos said the decision not to mark the anniversary was based on the student input as well as talks with staff and the counselors still working with the students.

The shooting has had a long-lasting effect on the campus, and counselors engaged to help students and staff deal with he trauma of the shooting and contracts for those counselors has been extended through June 14.

Norman Wright, a nationally know counselor specializing in grief and trauma counseling, offered his services immediately and the school hired him.

Cavazos said he has been tremendous help in dealing with the trauma.

“He has been absolutely outstanding,” Cavazos said.

It is through the work of Wright and others with the students in the classroom where Cleveland was shot that the decision not to observe the day was reached.

Instead, Taft High's response to the anniversary is going to be “Random Acts of Kindness” month for January.

Cavazos said she is going to kick it off with an act of her own and encourage all students and staff to follow suit.

“For the whole month we are going to be encouraging everyone on campus – students, staff and everyone-- to engage in random act of kindness,” Cavazos said last week.

The shooting came less than a month after the Sandy Hook shooting that left 20 children and six adults dead and has been followed by several more school shootings.

The shootings that followed Taft High's shooting have been followed by several more shootings, and each one still hits the TUHS community, Cavazos said.

“I think it really does rock everybody,” Cavazos said. “It really reminds us how vulnerable we are.”