The shooting at a Magruder High School in Montgomery County, Maryland, comes months after the county school system got rid of school resource officers, renewing the debate about whether those officers should be inside public schools.
Students returned to the school Tuesday, four days after a junior there shot a sophomore in a bathroom after an ongoing dispute, police say.
The 15-year-old victim remains in critical condition.
"It just felt kind of off, you know. Like, everybody was just kind of thinking that a student at Magruder is currently, like, in the hospital right now," Magruder High School Senior Zaid Dastj told News4.
School officials said they plan to have a police presence at every high school for the rest of the month in light of the shooting. But county officials were adamant that officers would not make a permanent return.
"We are not planning, right now, to go back to the old SRO program. I just want to make sure that’s clear," Montgomery County Police Chief Marcus Jones told News4 via a video call.
SROs, or school resource officers, are police officers who patrol inside schools.
Montgomery County Public Schools got rid of the program after protests for racial justice.
"No one’s produced any, you know, argument that an SRO would’ve made a difference in this particular incident," County Executive Marc Elrich said on Wednesday.
Montgomery County Public Schools replaced SROS with community engagement officers. Those are officers who patrol nearby schools, not inside them.
"They make us, minority students, like, feel at threat, because I feel like a lot of times they target, you know, students of color," Magruder High School Senior Brandon Campos told News4.
But others are calling for SROs to come back to county schools. A Change.org petition established before the shooting, about two months ago, has nearly 5,000 signatures.
"It does provide, like, a more sense of safety if there’s more resource officers around.
There’s one in the hallways. There’s one checking in on classes. It just makes, like, a person feel a little bit safer," Dastj said.
Police cars lined the street Tuesday when students returned, and officers stood by the school's entrance. One officer held a sign bearing the message "You are loved."
Some families said they still have continued concerns after the shooting.
"Hopefully it never happens to any schools in any places," said Keeko Thompson, whose son is a freshman at Magruder.
The student accused in the shooting is 17-year-old Steven Alston, Jr., who is being charged as an adult with attempted second-degree murder.
Police put out a picture of the ghost gun they say Alston used. Alston told authorities he bought parts for the 9 mm ghost gun online and assembled it with a friend, a prosecutor said in court Monday.
Thompson says that worries her.
"It kind of scares me to know everybody can buy guns," she said. "Hopefully before it happens, parents notice it."
Police said there were also other students in the bathroom when the shooting happened. But instead of calling 911, the students simply tweeted about it, police said.
Alston is being held without bond. His attorney had asked that he be released so he could take classes virtually, but a judge denied that request. The judge granted a request that Alston be held at a juvenile facility.
Tuesday was a half-day to give students an opportunity to speak with counselors.
Students also had an extended advisory period Tuesday to “help them process, cope, and learn from Friday’s events,” assistant principal Dr. Sofía Vega-Ormeño said on social media.
Friday's shooting led to a lockdown that went on for hours.
The case is being heard in an adult court now, but there is a chance a judge could decide to handle it in juvenile court.