Back at school after shooting: Hugs, uncertainty

Image:
Students hug at Millard South high school in Omaha, Neb., early Friday before classes resumed.Nati Harnik / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Students and staffers returned to a high school Friday where two days earlier a 17-year-old student fatally shot an assistant principal and wounded the principal before fleeing the campus and killing himself.

About 100 students gathered outside the entrance of the Millard South High School for more than 30 minutes in frigid temperatures to welcome back their classmates. A handful of candles flickered in jars at an ad-hoc memorial honoring assistant principal Vicki Kaspar and principal Curtis Case on the school grounds.

Some students stopped to look at the posters, flowers and other mementos, while others scurried by, eager to return to class. One freshman took a few minutes to look at the memorial before heading into the school building.

"I think it's going to be a good thing, but it might be a little weird," Dustin Smith, 14, said of his return to class.

Omaha police say Robert Butler Jr. returned to class a few hours after he was suspended Wednesday for driving on Millard South's football field and track. Butler, whose father is an Omaha police detective, gave no hint of his violent intentions before posting an ominous message on Facebook and returning to school with his father's handgun.

Many students seemed to be OK about returning to school Friday, but the district planned to offer counseling to anyone who needs it.

"I don't think I'll be worried, but it'll feel weird because someone got killed there," 17-year-old German Agraz said about re-entering the building.

Outside the school Friday, a tearful staff member who declined to give her name said Friday was going to be the hardest day.

Jamie Ryals, 17, said she wasn't sure she was quite ready to be back at school.

"I think it's a little too soon," Ryals said.

About 93 percent of Millard South's students attended class Friday, district spokeswoman Marti Seiberling said. Friday's attendance rate was close to last semester's average of 94.8 percent.

Case, 44, is improving at an Omaha hospital and has been able to speak with family members. He was listed in fair condition on Friday.

Associated Press Writers Michael Crumb and Ryan J. Foley contributed to this report.