By MALLORY MOENCH, Associated Press
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — The aunt of a 17-year-old killed by a fellow student at an Alabama high school last week is calling for school safety reform and action against gun violence.
“We’ve all failed our children. We’ve failed to keep them safe,” Shenise Abercrombie, the aunt of victim Courtlin Arrington, told The Associated Press on Monday. “There needs to be something done about it for sure. We want her death to not be in vain; we want it to mean something. We want it to be the start of change.”
Abercrombie said her family wants to work with the city to make Birmingham schools safer. She suggested more security officers and increased searches at school entrances.
Arrington was fatally shot inside a Huffman High School classroom Wednesday. Michael Jerome Barber, 17, was charged with manslaughter and illegal firearms possession Friday.
Huffman has metal detectors, but Birmingham City Schools Superintendent Lisa Herring said they were not in use the day Arrington died. Herring closed the school on Thursday and announced plans to coordinate with the city’s police department to review safety protocols when it reopened Friday.
“Our schools are for learning. When there is a threat to that, it’s a threat to all of our students. We will not sit idle in the face of this tragedy. We will stand up, roll up our sleeves and chart new safety measures to protect our students from harm,” Herring said in a statement.
In addition to school resource officers, more police were on patrol at the start of this week. Herring encouraged students to report any suspicious activity to the school’s hotline.
When Abercrombie last saw Arrington in February, she taught her niece to play cards, and they talked about where the senior who dreamed of becoming a nurse wanted to go to college.
Abercrombie said that as a mother with five children, three of whom she still drops off at public school every day, Arrington’s death hit close to home.
“You’re hoping and thinking when you’re dropping them off that you’re going to pick them back up,” Abercrombie said. “But you never think you’ll get a call that you need to come identify the children because they’ve been killed.”
Huffman High will participate in the National School Walk Out on Wednesday, taking 18 minutes to honor the lives of Arrington and the 17 victims of last month’s shooting at a Florida school.