How Trayvon Martin’s high school reacted to his public death

By on March 22nd, 2012

By Sarah Gonzalez – WLRN

Students at Trayvon Martin's high school (photo courtesy of WLRN)

It’s been almost a month since self-appointed neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin — an unarmed black teenager.  Martin’s death has inspired a national debate about race and justice.  But at Dr. Michael M. Krop Senior High School, where Trayvon Martin was an 11th grader — yesterday was the first time his death was announced publicly.  StateImpact Florida reporter Sarah Gonzalez has more:’

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Ashley Aristide went to school with Trayvon Martin.

“I’ve known him since 7th grade. We’re really good friends. Every time I see him he would smile.”

She had a t-shirt showing Trayvon with angel wings under the letters RIP.  She’s having a hard time coping with her friend’s death.

“(Crying) I think it’s frustrating. He’s dead and his killer isn’t even arrested, it just doesn’t make sense to me. (crying) I just really want justice to be served in this case because it’s not fair.”

At the school, for more than three-weeks, Air-ih-steed says no one in the administration was talking to students about Trayvon.  When asked if anyone made any kind of announcement for students who are grieving to get a referral to a counselor:

Ashley:  “No they haven’t done anything like that.”

The school didn’t publicly announce Trayon Martin’s death campus-wide until today…. and only after StateImpact Florida started asked about this.  The school’s principal held a moment of silence for the slain student and in an email told teachers to refer students who looked like they were grieving to counselors.

At the time of his death Trayvon Martin was suspended from the school. The teen’s family and the school have refused to comment on the reason for the suspension.  In other emails the school principal asked teachers to refrain from speaking to the media about Trayvon because he was a minor.  He asked teachers to refrain from long conversations about Trayvon.  But Ashley Airihsteed says students are talking about it in class anyway.

“You can’t help it. It’s something that happened. He went to our school.”

School officials handled other student deaths much differently.  Last year another student at the high school, Christopher Belle, died after being hit by a car.  The school orchestra collected donations for Belle’s family and a slideshow of Belle was shown at a performance.

“It was definitely different from what they are doing for Trayvon now, which is nothing. But it’s simpler to deal with something the way Chritopher Belle died and the way Trayvon died.”

A spokeswoman for the Miami-Dade school declined to be interviewed on tape. She said there is a protocol for dealing with any crisis that affects students, whether it’s a student death or a hurricane.  The principal calls the district. The district calls a crisis team. And members of the crisis team go into the school.  It may be a psychologist who can talk to grieving students about a loss. It may be an advocate who can provide clothing for students who lost their belongings in fire.

The district says there no set deadline for when a crisis team goes into a school.  Some question whether schools should be involved in dealing with student deaths at all.  Alison Austin regularly works with youths experiencing trauma at the Belafonte Tacolcy youth center in Miami.

“Should it be addressed in the schools? I don’t really know if it should or not. I think its important for us to recognize loss. But I don’t know how fair it is to put that holistic responsibility on schools.”

A science teacher at the school, Carlos Montero, said he doesn’t bring up Trayvon’s death in class because It’s “not related to the curriculum.”  And when another teacher avoided the discussion in advanced History, Ashley said it felt like a strange omission.

“It’s a history class so we’re encouraged to watch the news, see what’s going on and its all over the news so how can you avoid it?”

After the schools moment of silence, some students took to Twitter to show their frustration about the delay.  One tweeted: “I hate my school. Krop waited too long to acknowledge the situation of Trayvon.”

A group of students will wear hoodies to school tomorrow in honor of Trayvon Martin… who was wearing a hoodie when he died.

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