RANDOLPH, NJ - The counseling team at Randolph High School pleased parent Eliza Schleifstein with their quick response when they heard her daughter’s friend was killed in the Parkland, Fla. shooting on Feb. 14. At Tuesday's Board of Education meeting, Schleifstein praised their efforts and thanked them for the support provided after the incident.
Schleifstein’s daughter, Darcy, knew two students at Stoneman Douglas through the summer camp she attended, Camp Echo. During the shooting, one of these friends ran away and survived, but Alex Schachtner was shot and later died in surgery. Darcy learned of these incidents through a camp group text sent between her friends.
“I’ve known him for about six years,” Darcy said. When she went to camp, Alex was known as the “kid that gives really good hugs.”
On the evening of February 14, Darcy went to sleep knowing Alex was in surgery and left for school the next day waiting for an update.
Schleifstein learned about the group text on Feb. 15 and immediately walked into the school counseling department, so they could support her daughter and other students involved throughout the day.
“I want to thank the Randolph school district, particularly the staff and teachers at Randolph High School for springing into action quickly and providing the support that Darcy and others needed the next day at school,” Schleifstein said to the board. “These kids were able to be with their friends and at school trying to continue on with their lives, only because RHS had a system in place for them to do so.”
The past week has been a “whirlwind of being sad, angry, grieving,” Darcy said. She had just finished taking a quiz when she checked her phone and found that Alex had not survived the surgery.
“The counseling department is such a great group of people,” Darcy said. “When I found out, I was supported by my counselor and she did such a great job.”
In her comments to the board, Schleifstein urged them to allow students to march and let their voices be heard.
“The children of Newtown were too young to stand up for themselves the way the students of Douglas are,” she explained. “They are mobilizing the way many key student movements shaped American society… I’m not going to tell parents or the school district to do anything, I simply ask that you consider finding an organized and safe way for the children and teachers who want to participate in this meaningful moment.”
Darcy added later, “We’re all coming to the time in our lives where we’re not far from where we can be heard by people in government.” She plans to march in either Washington, D.C. or locally in Morristown in the “March for Our Lives” on March 24.
“Our politicians are letting us down because we’re the future generation, and they’re not doing what they can to take care of us,” she concluded.
Margaret Clark also told the board, “My hope, as well, would be that there would be space for our kids who are making their own choices on how to engage in public discussion and discourse and in some cases public protest..., for those students to do so in a meaningful way without fear of what may happen in terms of attendance and that sort of thing.”
While out on a run, another parent, Rebecca Fisher saw students safe in Ironia Elementary School and knew she needed to “do more than send thoughts and prayers” to the families in Parkland. She shared her story of jumping into action to help the families of victims over President’s Day weekend.
“I google-searched schools in Parkland, community centers in Parkland..., and I just started calling teachers there… and they were in the middle of vigils and starting grief counseling,” Fisher explained. She originally posted on Facebook that her home would be open to pull together tools to be used in grief counseling. As support grew, friends at her synagogue, Adath Shalom, suggested she invite families there instead to hold more people.
She also reached out to Saint Matthews, which published an announcement in their bulletin for families to volunteer and support this effort. One local business owner donated the shipping costs for 179 pounds of supplies sent to Florida on Feb. 20.
In a further demonstration of Randolph’s connection to Parkland, the teacher Fisher spoke to in Florida had been the maid of honor for an Ironia mom.
“I’m just one person, and I reached out to all these other people, and they were willing to do it,” Fisher said to the board. “That’s the kind of children that we’re raising… And I want so badly for these children to also have a voice and to also know that in a safe way and in a productive way, they can be heard.”
At the March 13 meeting, the Board of Education will hear a presentation from school security on the current security practices. Superintendent Jennifer Fano plans to schedule another parent session for continued discussion on safety.