Parents Fear for Kids' Safety After Shots Fired at South Shore School
SOUTH SHORE — As she does at the end of every school day, Rakayia Thompson waited for her 12-year-old outside the Parkside Community Academy just before 3 p.m. last week.
“Next thing you know, gunshots,” she said.
As she stood outside with her 6-year-old son and her 7-year-old daughter, a flood of bullets suddenly came their way from East End Avenue, near 70th Street, next to the playground.
Panic followed the incident on Nov. 20, Thompson recalled Thursday. The stream of kids leaving the pre-kindergarten-to-eighth-grade school scattered in every direction.
“There were kids' shoes everywhere,” said Angel White, who had been waiting for her three kids. “They ran out [of] their shoes.”
Thompson said kids were falling and busting their lips as they scrambled.
“They tried to shoot me!” her 5-year-old son interjected.
Fortunately, no students, parents or teachers were injured.
“Thank God it wasn’t worse,” said Courtney Greene, 25, who has three kids at the school.
“To see a man standing there shooting toward me and my kids, it feels more personal,” said Thompson, 30, a nursing assistant. “It feels like we’re not safe at all. Kids can’t be kids anymore. As a parent, I’m scared.”
Montana Martin was inside the school when the shooting started, trying to get her 4-year-old Tyahna to get moving. No one knew what was going on, she said.
“Everybody’s running, kids screaming, parents screaming ‘Where’s my kid?’” Martin said.
One woman who would not give her name said that when a yellow car drove by, the gunman fired.
Police did not return requests for comment Thursday, and Parkside Principal Cedric P. Nolen declined to comment.
But in a Nov. 21 letter to parents and guardians, Nolen said five shots were fired “by an unidentified suspect wearing a black hoodie and khaki pants” as students were being dismissed at 2:52 p.m. He said those remaining on school grounds — about 110 students and 20 parents — were brought back inside and the school was locked down until 3:20 p.m. School officials made sure the situation was clear and police arrived immediately, he said.
Nolen called the situation a “crisis” but said no one was hurt.
“We All have to Work together in order for Ourselves and Our School to Be Protected and a Safe Haven for Everyone!” he wrote.
Greene said she received a phone call from the school about the incident, but other parents said they were unaware of what happened.
“I hadn’t heard about it, but this area is kind of rough,” said Steven Anderson, a 47-year-old forklift operator whose 5-year-old, Cordell, attends Parkside. “I don’t like it.”
Anderson said he is planning to take his children out of the school for several reasons, including a lack of crossing guards when school begins and ends.
While the shooting makes some parents fearful, others are resigned to what they say is the reality of their neighborhood.
“I feel like there is nothing much you can do,” Martin said.
As a school security guard Wednesday dropped a sawhorse used to block the street at the school day’s end, Thompson’s 5-year old was startled.
"Anytime they hear a pop, they jump," Thompson said, adding that her kids can’t even play in the park because men in ski masks have come running through. "It’s like living with zombies."
Standing outside the school Thursday, Greene, who lives in the area, said she wishes the staff would let her walk her kids all the way to the classroom. After last week's close call, Greene said she wants to keep them in her sight as much as possible.
Greene also questioned whether it's safe to let the kids outside after school before parents arrive.
“They need to stay in the classroom until the parents come,” Greene said.
Greene and Martin said a squad car was stationed near the shooting’s intersection this week, and that the north entrance of East End near 69th is now blocked off as school begins and ends.
However, Thompson said she does not expect the extra precautions to last.
“That’s just for now,” she said. “It will die out.”