It’s been nearly 25 years since the school shooting in Pearl that left two students dead. The principal at the time, Roy Balentine, said October 1, 1997, is a day he will never forget.
“I just remember a lot of chaos, but I also remember a lot of compassionate people, a lot of people on my staff who just really stepped up to the plate and put their own life on the line,” said Balentine. “Not much time goes by that I, or probably any of the other people involved, don’t think about that situation that happened. It seems like it was two weeks ago. Sometimes it seems like it was 25 years ago.”
After going through the traumatic event, Balentine said he never expected school shootings to become the major nationwide issue that they have today. Now through his company School Safety Consultants, LLC, he has been working to help people prevent and prepare for incidents like school shootings.
“Basically what I’ve done is going into communities and shared our experience with them and what to expect. There are ways to minimize the risk. It’s security, it’s getting to know students, it’s addressing mental health, it’s keeping a close tie to the faith based community,” said Balentine.
While every incident isn’t easily preventable, a local school counselor said it’s important for everyone in a child’s life to monitor major changes in their behavior.
“If they’re normally pretty level headed and all of a sudden they’re really angry or aggressive or acting out violently, kind of be aware of any behavioral changes. It’s like a red flag if something’s going on,” said a local school counselor.
“There’s somebody probably sitting in every school in America that probably, if put in the right circumstances, are capable of doing something of this nature,” said Balentine.
It is ideal to stop these incidents before they occur, but it’s also important to get as much help as possible to heal after an unexpected tragedy strikes.
“I think the biggest thing is just being there for those victims and for the school for any staff members to have any type of crisis team available. There’s people that just need to talk that maybe they can’t afford to go get a therapist. Just having people that they can talk to reach out to,” said the school counselor.
Balentine said the entire Pearl community had to come together to truly heal from the 1997 school shooting.