SANTA ROSA, Calif. - Students returned to classes at Montgomery High School in Santa Rosa on Monday for the first time since a 15-year-old student allegedly stabbed another classmate to death.
Hundreds of students held a rally before noon to remember Jayden Pienta, 16, and to call on the school district to take steps to ensure student safety.
"Someone died here, and that's terrifying," student Grace Anderson told KTVU ."We have to walk around and be friendly with people and have a smile on our face like they don't even exist."
The city's police chief and school superintendent both said they are aiming to make students staff feel as safe as possible in schools. The chief said he handpicked three police officers to be on campus, not just for security presence but to try and talk to students whose voices have not felt heard.
That was the center of a protest Friday afternoon, when students walked out of a nearby campus, Maria Carrillo High School.
Those incidents, along with the killing of Jayden at Montogomery High last week is pushing students to call on school leaders to take better steps in ensuring safety and security.
In 2020, the school board got rid of school resource officers in middle and high schools.
"In general, our schools are very safe," said Police Sgt. Christopher Mahurin. "We know that there are issues with bullying, fights that occur on campuses. We do partner with our school administrators to make sure we can make these campuses as safe as possible."
Santa Rosa City Schools Supt. Anna Trunnell posted a statement over the weekend saying in part:
"While teams of professionals are studying what happened, we want everyone in our school community to know that we see this devastating loss as a call to action to review and fortify the systems and resources that we have in our schools to make them safe, welcoming, and happy places for our children."
In an interview Monday, schools spokeswoman Vanessa Wedderburn said, "We are really focused this week less on academics and more on just providing comfort and restorative practices."
The school board this week will host a community listening session at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday at Friedman Event Center. The entire community is invited and Police Chief John Cregan plans to be there. The board will also have a regularly scheduled meeting on Wednesday night.