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After Teen Was Killed Near A Kansas City High School, One Student Says It Just Feels Normal

Andrea Tudhope
KCUR 89.3
Thousands gathered in Theis Park last March to demand action against gun violence after 17 teenagers were killed in a mass shooting in Parkland, Florida. A year later, a Kansas City teenager was shot and killed outside of Central Academy.

On Tuesday night, 15-year-old An'Janique Wright was shot and killed outside of Central Academy of Excellence during a basketball game. Two women have been charged with her murder.

Though Wright was not a student at Central, her killing hit hard — especially because this week marks one year after 17 teenagers were killed in a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School  in Parkland, Florida.

"I just feel like a little more respect should have been showed for her, picking up her blood," said Ty-Ree Wilson, a senior at Central, who saw blood in the parking lot Wednesday. "It's a tragedy. And it affects the students."

Still, Wilson said, this kind of violence is "normal," and she doesn’t feel much emotion about it.

"Death doesn't really surprise me," she said. "It's something that I kind of already prepared myself for. I already process it in my mind before it happens, so it doesn't affect me as much. I think you have to. You either prepare yourself or you're going to keep hurting yourself."

Kansas City hasn’t seen a school mass shooting, but in the year since the Parkland tragedy, the metro area has lost 25 teenagers. All but two were killed by gun.

"No outrage. It’s unacceptable," Kansas City Public School Superintendent Mark Bedell said at a press conference Wednesday.

Even though Wright didn’t go to school in his district, Bedell said it should be a concern to everyone. Especially when it’s a child.

Credit Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3
KCUR 89.3 file photo
At a press conference Wednesday, Kansas City Public Schools Superintendent Mark Bedell repeated a call for community help, saying the school district cannot curb gun violence alone.

Bedell was actually at Central on Tuesday night for the basketball game with his child. They left early, and got the call minutes later.

"I watched the video that night — I watched my seven-year-old get in that car right where the bullets went. That's where my truck was parked. So I'm shook by this right now," he said.

Bedell doesn’t often open up about his past. But in the press conference the morning after the shooting, he said his 17-year-old brother was killed in a drive-by shooting, and that his sister was shot and killed right after he signed the contract to come to Kansas City.

"So I know what these kids are living through. And I'm trying to tell them, 'I get it, some of you have been dealt a tough hand.' But that's where we got to come in," he said.

The district has taken steps not only to prevent violence on school grounds with tighter security, but also to support students in a specific way. Bedell said they’ve brought on social workers, family therapists and psychologists, and developed a system to provide trauma-informed support in classrooms.

And, he said, it’s working. Actually, being at that game Tuesday night, with the gymnasium packed and full of energy, he said he felt like he was seeing a rebirth. He still thinks that, but he said this is a setback, even if it wasn’t inside the school. 

We say that we want change and we go out and say that people should put the guns down and stuff, but in reality it's like we're only heard for that month or so.

"KCPS cannot cure the illness of gun violence by itself. We can only try to lessen the bleeding. The cure will have to be developed by the entire community," Bedell said.

Ty-Ree Wilson, the senior at Central, said she feels like it's her responsibility to protect herself emotionally. This was far from the first person near her or who she knew who was killed by a gun.

"It doesn't surprise me, because it's ongoing," Wilson said. "We say that we want change and we go out and say that people should put the guns down and stuff, but in reality it's like we're only heard for that month or so. And then after that, everybody goes back to their normal lives and nobody really pays attention to the actual things that's hurting our society."

But not this time — at least that’s what Bedell said this week. He urged his staff, his students and the impacted communities, not to be afraid, and not to allow violence like this to hold them hostage any longer.

Andrea Tudhope is a reporter for KCUR 89.3. Email her at andreat@kcur.org, and follow her on Twitter @andreatudhope.

Andrea Tudhope is an award-winning multimedia journalist based in Kansas City, Missouri. She is currently coordinating producer for America Amplified, a national public media community engagement initiative funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. 
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