First day back for normal classes at Austin-East since shooting death of classmate

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE)– Austin-East Magnet High students returned to classes as usual today.

It’s the first day back since fellow classmate Anthony Thompson Jr. was shot and killed by Knoxville Police officers at the high school, 10 days prior.

Thursday also happened to be the day after bodycam videos and other evidence was revealed of Thompson’s death.

Some parents were nervous, and said their students were a little apprehensive too.

“It’s just a lot that the kids have to take in right now. So, we just try to see what happens,” Kimberly Lefall, a mother of an Austin-East junior, said.

Lefall said she felt in-person class should’ve been pushed back a few more days, especially since the bodycam video was released the day before.

“I’m up in the air because sometimes I think they should’ve just left it out and went virtual for the rest of the year to give kids closure and being home safe and just went virtual,” Lefall said.

Lefall said she wanted to find out if her daughter could go virtual for the rest of the year, but also said she wanted to see how the day went first.

Even school representatives noticed lighter traffic heading into the schools this first day back.

According to school officials, 296 out of the 459 students who learn in-person showed up for class Thursday.

While Lefall was hesitant about her daughter going back to class, she said there was little comfort in knowing more safety precautions were put into place.

Another parent, Michael Jones, said the same.

“I agree that they should put metal detectors in there and make sure that they have no weapons on them and take extra precautions and measures,” Jones said.

Since Thompson’s death, school officials announced students would undergo a security screening, with metal detector wands, before they headed inside the building.

Plus, all entrances and exits would have alarms.

Extra personnel would be outside during arrival and pickup, and more law enforcement officers would be staffed in and around campus.

The clear backpack policy would also continue.

Lefall said she had another safety precaution in place today: her daughter’s cell phone.

“I told her to call me, you know, so she’s going to call me throughout the day, let me know how her day’s going.” Lefall said.

These two parents knew there was going to be a lot of different emotions within the school on the first day back.

Although, Jones said he was probably more nervous about the whole situation than his son.

“Yeah, it affected me more than it did him,” Jones said.

Lefall said she worried about everyone’s emotions impacting school work.

“I do feel like she’s going to be safe. You know, but you still just nervous on how others are going to feel. A lot of kids take on other people’s feelings and things like that as well. Cause you know, when you see other people hurting, you hurt too, even if you don’t feel that you still feel a connection to other people’s pain. And we do have that,” Lefall said.

McNabb Center mental health professionals would be on campus, according school officials and McNabb staff, in order to help the students to continue processing their emotions properly.

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