How survivors of the Chardon High School shooting are using the experience to do good

Published: Feb. 24, 2022 at 8:27 PM EST
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) -This month is the tenth anniversary of a tragic event that will haunt a local community for years to come.

It was a decade ago that a student a Chardon High School brought a gun in the building and shot six fellow students, killing three of them.

Moving forward, we wanted to know what has changed for the safer in the decade since that fateful day.

T.J. Lane took the lives of Russell King Jr, Demetrius Hewlin, and Danny Parmertor in that shooting.

Nick Walczak was paralyzed by a gunshot wound he suffered that day.

“I’ve changed a lot. All of my friends did. We all had to change together. Anybody who is involved in a school shooting, immediately we have to grow up,” he recounted in a recently released PSA for the Sandy Hook Promise.

“They weren’t going to be the school that had the shooting. They were going to be the school that recovered from the shooting, and that’s what lead us in any of our decision-making moving forward,” said Andy Fetchik, who was the principal at Chardon High at the time.

Since the shooting, he’s worked to share what he’s learned from the painful experience.

The National Association of Secondary School Principals reached out and together they formed the Principals Recovery Network, made up of former and current administrators who were in a school at the time of a tragedy.

The former principal of Columbine High School reached out to Fetchik in the days after the shooting.

“He’s a member. He was a resource for me. I want to able to do that for others as well,” he said.

Fetchik and others who were there that day now advocate in Columbus for changes to safety measures and policies, but he admits things aren’t moving as quickly as they’d like.

“We do think that mental health is a major issue. From Pre-K thru 12,” he said.

Some of the focus in the years since the shooting is on social media, and preventing school violence from within the school community.

“Kids hear things. They’re uncomfortable. They know a situation is wrong and it’s critical that they do speak up. Part of that mental health is trusting adults,” said Fetchik.

Coach Frank Hall created the Coach Hall Foundation, which crisscrosses the country sharing their story.

“It’s never comfortable. Each time it takes a little bit out of you. I know it’s important that we have to do this. But it’s not easy. But for Danny, Demetrius and Russell, we do it,” said Hall.

There are better safety tools now at play in school buildings in the years since the Chardon shooting.

Shiffler, a Chardon-based school equipment and furniture maker developed a door stop, the Ultra Dog, in the months after the shooting, moved to do something to make schools safer.

And more schools are doing the kind of lock down drills that saved lives that day. But there are still concerns.

“There’s lots of conversations about those drills...are they the right drill for mental health for students. Does it scare them? Does it prepare that student who is having those thoughts to know what is happening in the school,” said Fetchik.

A decade removed, there are still scars, and signs that something terrible happened here.

“When I went back into the cafeteria, I asked god to be in this place and I believe that he was,” said Hall.

All month long, the Coach Hall Foundation has been promoting a #27BeTheChange campaign, encouraging 27 days worth of acts of kindness.

“Whatever that may be, that act of kindness for change in a positive way. And we do that do honor Danny, Demetrius, and Russell. So their memory doesn’t ever leave Chardon,” said Hall.

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