Chardon tragedy: a year later

Heather Beyer

A year ago Wednesday, shots rang through the cafeteria of Chardon High School, changing the lives of the students, teachers and family forever.

Demetrius Hewlin, Daniel Parmertor and Russell King Jr.’s lives were ended, and three students were injured at the hands of teenage gunman T.J. Lane. He shot them with a Ruger .22-caliber semi-automatic handgun.

On Tuesday, Lane pleaded guilty to aggravated murder, attempted aggravated murder and felonious assault.

Lane will be sentenced March 19 and could be sentenced with three consecutive life sentences, with additional time added for the attempted aggravated murder charges and gun specifications.

Tragedies like this really hit home for students like Emily Barry, a UA education major, as she was teaching at a field experience last year at Barberton High School around the time of the shooting.

“I was absolutely shocked to hear about the Chardon shooting. I remember having tears just fill in my eyes and being in disbelief about the whole thing. As an education major, I couldn’t help but think this could happen to myself one day or to my friends and fellow education majors,” Barry said.

Barry said that going to BHS the following day and week was tough, but at the same time, she did not think twice about walking back in or regretting her choice to be an educator.

“Obviously, there are always ‘what ifs’ that go through your head, but we can’t let those thoughts keep us from doing what we want to do,” Barry said.

Barry said that it also helped to have an amazing support system with her at Barberton. She credits UA’s Dr. Hal Foster as a positive influence throughout the whole semester, especially at the time of the Chardon shootings.

“He definitely made us feel comfortable as a team, and he always made us feel as though we were in a supportive and loving environment. I remember when he spoke about the code words used at Barberton in case of such an emergency. This was the time where we see first hand that those kids come before ourselves and that it is our job to not only teach, but protect and help our students at all times,” Barry said.

Barry said she also had the support of her peers from her class who co-taught with her and her BHS students, including teacher Brittany LaCroix.

“We grew to be one class as a whole and such a positive support system for one another,” Barry said.

Barry said she thinks it is important to understand that situations like Chardon can occur anywhere at anytime.

“We must be prepared to handle them in the best way possible. I think it is also crucial as educators to know our students, help them, support them and relate to them. I can only hope that by doing so, students will know that they are not alone and that teachers are there for them.”

Tragedies like the Chardon, Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook shootings, really made Barry think about her impact as a future educator.

“I have to advocate for and protect my future students,” Barry said.

“It also makes me better understand and value life, as we never know when such a terrible situation may occur. We need to be grateful for each day we are given. And as an educator, for each day we are able to walk into our classrooms and teach our kids.”