As he watched Nightwatch, Ventura High School’s most recent play, a thought crept into senior Tyler Sehon’s mind — what if a shooting took place in the auditorium then and there, just like the one at the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks, where an ex-marine killed 12 people including a police officer?
“I went to the play [Nightwatch] last night and I was kind of scared. This is a public event, like somebody could do just the same thing,” he said.
Sehon, like other students at Ventura High School, wore white to remember those lost in Wednesday night’s shooting at Borderline’s College Night event. Sehon wore a white hoodie.
“I don’t personally know anybody that lives in Thousand Oaks or is going to college there, but… I knew people that have like been to the bar… like my mom’s friend had her wedding there,” Sehon said.
The student response
“I was at the rehearsal for Columbinus [a play about Columbine] when I heard about it,” said Clayton Currie, a VHS alumnus starting his first year at California Lutheran University. “I saw the news first and told everyone what had happened and then I just kind of sat there mortified.”
Some students from CLU were attending Borderline’s College Night, according to CLU’s student newspaper. A CLU graduate, Justin Meek, was among those killed.
Three other seniors from the 2017-2018 school year attend CLU, according to the self-reported Senior Edition survey administered last year by the Cougar Press. Three more reported that they would be attending CLU on the 2016-2017 survey.
VUSD Risk Management coordinator Eric Reynolds forwarded teachers a free emotional support hotline and website. The website is liveandworkwell.com and the phone number is 866-342-6892.
Sehon starts school third period, so he missed Principal Carlos Cohen’s statements on Friday during first and second period addressing both the shooting and the fires currently burning in Ventura County.
“When I came [Thursday], I expected it to be addressed, like what normally happens if events like this occur, and none of my teachers addressed it. It was just completely disregarded, so it’s kind of nice that the community did something like this [wearing white] to bring awareness to it, or at least respect the people that were affected.”
Listen to seniors Julia Offerman and Emilio Barrera state why they wore white.
A family friend of senior Destyni Tefertiller was close with Sgt. Ron Helus, the Ventura County sheriff who gave his life trying to stop the shooter. Helus was due to retire next year, according to CNN. “Seeing this happen in places around the country on the news is such a devastating feeling but seeing it happen so close to home is even worse,” Tefertiller said.
“As we mature into adulthood, we are growing up to see acts of gun violence and mass shootings almost daily. Having this become a sort of social norm is sickening and needs to end. As the next generation being brought up in America I think it [is] our time to stand up and work on fixing the problems that are here rather than letting them continuously slide by.”
However, Tefertiller voiced her opposition to banning guns altogether, arguing that criminals will get guns illegally anyway. She endorsed better background checks.
“I think what needs to happen is better mental health checks, and if someone has a history of a mental disorder that causes them to possibly act irrationally then that specific person should not be granted access to a firearm,” Tefertiller said.
Senior Sammy Pedersen, who co-organized last year’s March For Our Lives march in Ventura, confessed to being “shaken” by the proximity of the attack, in addition to being “heartbroken because it was another shooting that affected the country music community.”
Borderline, a western-style bar with a country themed night, was frequented by survivors of last year’s Route 91 Harvest Festival shooting in Las Vegas.
Pedersen, who is also a member of VHS’s National Association of Students Against Gun Violence (NASAGV), said the attack was preventable.
“Mass shootings and gun violence are complex issues with many proposed solutions ranging from better gun control to better treatment for people suffering from mental health problems,” Pedersen said. “I believe more research needs to be done to determine how we can combine these approaches to reach an effective solution that will prevent more attacks like the one at the Borderline.”
The administration’s response
VUSD Risk Management coordinator Eric Reynolds forwarded teachers a free emotional support hotline and website. The website is liveandworkwell.com and the phone number is 866-342-6892. According to the attached email, the hotline will be open 24/7 “for as long as necessary.”
Student Assistance Program counselor Barbara Richards said her office is open to any students affected by or feeling overwhelmed by the shooting as the ongoing wildfires in the state.
“Before work, there was a continual conversation going on about how we can make ourselves available, how we can find out who some of the victims were and how we could make ourselves available to the students here because we had a feeling [that] because it’s local, a lot of our graduated students may be attending some of those schools and some of our families may be affected,” Richards said.
“I was just thinking about my son who used to frequent Borderlines all the time,” she said, her voice trailing off. “Sometimes I find that students don’t want anybody to know what they’re feeling,” she added, urging students to come both to her office and to talk to their own counselors. The Student Assistant Program is located in room 40 across from the VHS auditorium.
Listen below to Richards’ full interview below.
Principal Cohen said that the VHS administration’s response to the shooting has been a “multi-step process,” including information gathering, emails to staff and his messages delivered through the intercom to address the issue.
He also plans to encourage families to work with their students and to get aid themselves.
“We still have the resources that we had from the Thomas Fire even,” he said.
Cohen added later that next week, students will be invited to a “council circle” where they can share and discuss their thoughts and emotions about the last year’s events since the Thomas Fire. Cohen voiced his hope to make this circle a regular event for students to discuss and work though topics and issues troubling them.
Listen below to Cohen’s full interview below.
As another mass shooting enters national consciousness, Tefertiller urged people to help stop gun violence.
“We need to fix these issues because no human being deserves their life to be ripped from them in such a mortifying manner,” Tefertiller said.