ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - Students arrived at West Orange High School Thursday to some
changes made in light of a student shooting on the campus Wednesday.
Students had to pass through a metal detector when they entered the school.
The school's principal posted a message to students on YouTube Thursday reminding them that they were safe, and if they see something, they should say something.
"If you hear anything, please report it, please tell an adult, please come find me directly. Find one of your leadership teams or one of your administrators. Tell a teacher. We need you to let us know what is going on," the principal said in the message.
Students told Channel 9's Karla Ray that it was a strange day on campus, but the extra steps did make them feel relieved after such a traumatic experience yesterday.
At dismissal Wednesday afternoon, 15-year-old freshman Ja'Roderick Smith was shot on school property. Fellow student J'Morian Eddie Patrick Bell, 17, was arrested and charged in the shooting that left Smith hospitalized with non-life-threatening wounds.
"They were fighting first, and then the two kids one came out of nowhere and just shot him, and everyone was running and it was crazy," said student Erik Nieto on Wednesday.
A day after that shooting, law enforcement still showed a heavy presence outside the school.
"We had to go into the gym, and we got our bags checked and then we got (metal detector) wanded and we got stamped," said student Abby Vahle.
Security remained tight throughout the day.
A private security firm joined the Orange County Sheriff's Office to keep watch on campus.
"(There is) enhanced security at the bus loop. You'll see more administrators. We're going to have administrators here from other portions of the district," said Orange County School District representative Kathy Marsh.
Deputies said a fight between Bell and Smith led to the shooting.
Some students were clearly shaken up
Thursday; many avoided school today altogether.
"There was barely people at school today. I had two people in my classroom," said student Erik Nieto.
"Normal attendance in the school on a Thursday would be 95 percent, so we're down about 15 percent over what's considered normal," said Marsh.
On Wednesday, following the shooting, Skywitness 9 HD flew over the school as buses remained in the bus loop outside the high school.
Despite the gunfire, students did not appear to be panicked outside the school. District leaders said that shows
newly required training for students and staff worked.
"All of the parts that worked together worked right in gear, right in step with each other, which was a true blessing to our community that we had that kind of dedication to surround them," said Orange County School Board member Pam Gould.
9 Investigates first reported in February that districts are not required to practice lockdown drills in the state of Florida.
Following the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary
School in which 26 children and adults were shot and killed, Orange County started its own policy requiring each school practice.
"We train for these things. We try to be prepared, and that type of training and preparation does pay off," said Gould.
So far this semester, West Orange High students have practiced lockdown procedures twice -- most recently last month.
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