Prayer vigil promotes healing following shooting at Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School

Published: Aug. 22, 2021 at 6:43 AM EDT|Updated: Aug. 22, 2021 at 11:53 PM EDT
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ORANGEBURG, S.C. (WCSC) - Dozens of parents, students and community members gathered at a prayer vigil at Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School Sunday evening as students there prepare to head back to class after three of their classmates were injured in a shooting on school grounds last week.

The shooting happened Wednesday during the school’s afternoon dismissal. A 14-year-old was arrested and faces three counts of assault and battery with intent.

The three students who were hurt have all since been released from the hospital.

During the roughly one-hour vigil, speakers promoted healing and expressed relief that the incident wasn’t much worse.

“We’re thankful that we’re not at a celebration of life, a funeral, we’re not gathered for that, our young people are recovering,” Bishop Donald Oliver of the Edisto Drive Church of God said to applause.

Rev. Ken Nelson, the superintendent of the Orangeburg district of the South Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church, said the vigil was set up to help reclaim the school as a place of hope rather than fear and to show that the community – everyone from the school district to faith leaders – are united.

“It’s really important right now, in this time where students are already feeling some of the transitions related to COVID and feeling health and feeling supported, that we continue to say to them that we’re in this with you and that this will not be something that will stop you from having a wonderful and excellent school year,” he said.

Principal Rahim El-Amin stressed the shooting “does not represent what we do here at Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School, and it will not represent what we do here at Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School.”

As students prepare to return for the first time since the shooting on Monday, Kelvin Gadson, who has a ninth-grade student at the school, said he wants them to know that everything will be fine.

“Trust God,” he said. “God’s got it under control.”

Nelson said students should feel comforted knowing the community is there to support them.

“What we want our students to take away is that (the school) is a place where they will continue to be supported, that we’re in it with them for the long haul and not just for this incident, but that we’re going to stand hand-in-hand, shoulder-to-shoulder to build a stronger and better community and that we’re going to look forward to the future,” he said.

The school has put a number of new security measures in place following the shooting.

For the rest of the school year, students will have to go through a metal detector to get into the building. They will also be subject to searches of their bags and will get clear backpacks to use.

The school has also changed bell times so there are fewer students waiting around before and after school. Classes will now start at 8:55 a.m. and end at 3:55 p.m. to better align with bus times.

There will also be private security in addition to the school’s resource officer.

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