Students at Abbotsford Senior Secondary will return to class on Monday for the first time since a fatal double stabbing at the school last week – and community members and school officials are mobilizing to support them.
Thirteen-year-old Letisha Reimer was killed after being attacked by an intruder in the school’s atrium. Her 14-year-old friend, who cannot be named because of a publication ban, was seriously injured and remains in hospital.
Twenty-one-year-old Gabriel Klein has been charged with second-degree murder and aggravated assault. He was staying at an Abbotsford homeless shelter in the days leading up to the incident.
A number of initiatives have been undertaken to make the transition back to class a little easier, such as cleaning the ravine behind the high school.
Kyle Hansen, a graduate of the school, organized alumni and community members to clear the wooded area backing school property of items that shouldn’t be there.
“Dirty needles, condoms and clothing, tarps and garbage bags, there’s some shopping carts… It’s scary for people to walk through there,” said Hansen. “It just needs to be done… we just want to make it safe again.”
Cheri Louvre is an American crisis specialist with extensive experience in school tragedies, including the Columbine massacre. She is now working with the Abbotsford School District, and says the school’s response to the stabbing was “remarkable.”
“The school was as well prepared as I could imagine a school ever being,” she said. “It was a remarkable response.”
On Friday night, students and their parents were invited to the school’s gymnasium for a presentation and vigil.
“The parents took their kids into the school, and as they went into the school at first it was quite somber,” Louvre added. “But within 30 minutes you could feel the kids taking the school back.”
School officials say school will only be in session for a half-day on Monday, with each student returning to the classroom where they were held in lockdown.
“We get through tough times together, so it’s about how will we come together as a community,” Louvre said. “The kids are dealing like the kids do at every event to which I respond.”
Parents are being encouraged to reach out to friends and family, and be together during the grieving process.