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Numbness Settles over King after Hadiya Pendleton Slaying

By Sam Cholke | February 1, 2013 8:19am | Updated on February 1, 2013 10:11am
 Hadiya Pendleton, 15, was fatally shot Tuesday in Vivian Gordon Harsh Park on the South Side.
Hadiya Pendleton, 15, was fatally shot Tuesday in Vivian Gordon Harsh Park on the South Side.
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KENWOOD — Teachers said a numbness has settled in at King College Prep after two days of intense grief from students and staff over the Tuesday slaying of Hadiya Pendleton.

“I wasn’t prepared to see so many kids so visibly distraught,” said computer science teacher David Hayes, who coached Hadiya in debate last summer.

Hayes said many students have taken advantage of the grief counselors at the school, and  a quietness has settled over the campus of nearly 900 students. The reality is beginning to sink in that the affable 15-year-old sophomore is not returning to class, Hayes said.

“As I walked towards the teacher’s entrance, my mind went to that place where I thought maybe it was a joke or a prank,” Hayes said, who returned to the school on Wednesday to help the debate team on a research project about violence in Chicago.

The school is preparing for a hectic few days next week as students select their classes for the coming semester, but several teachers seemed unconcerned that their classes were being cut.

“Right now, the loss of a fellow citizen [in our Latin class] has more resonance than the decisions made or not made by our administration,” said Mark Lipscomb, who taught Hadiya Latin. “Hadiya Pendleton, civis pretiosior — the more precious citizen — always brought life and joy to second period, and we will miss her.”

Meanwhile, some parents expressed frustration about the school's seemingly delayed reaction to the shooting. Parents said they did not get an email until Wednesday night about changes happening in response to the shooting.

“How easy would it be to say, we don't have all the information about the shooting, but we as a school offer our condolences to the family and friends of the victim,” said Keely Binion Davis, whose son, Benjamin, is a junior at King.

Some parents and students received an email from Assistant Principal Walter Ornelas on Tuesday night that finals would be postponed and that security would be beefed up inside and outside the school.

Principal Shontae Higginbottom did not respond to repeated requests for comment on Hadiya's slaying.

As his daughter entered the school Wednesday, Sean Hill pulled his daughter close and held her as she sobbed. He gave her a final hug before she went inside.

Hill said his "heart just hit the floor" when he found out Tuesday that Hadiya had been killed, a parent's worst nightmare.

"Every day they walk out your door, you're concerned," he said. "They're just trying to be kids. But our kids can't be kids anymore. It's sickening."