CENTENNIAL — Arapahoe High School students in Colorado returned to class Tuesday for the first time since a fatal Dec. 13 shooting on campus, greeted by increased security and signs on each of their lockers telling them they are loved and valued.
Students hugged one another, laughed and gathered to talk. Some students discussed the ramped up security inside of the school. Others talked about whether they would take final exams made optional by administrators.
"It's weird. I'm not used to all the cops," Ryan Lamb, a senior at Arapahoe, told The Denver Post (http://tinyurl.com/o3pn4od ). "There are five or six cops in there patrolling the halls. It makes sense, I guess."
Students have not attended classes since senior Karl Pierson entered through a door that was propped open and fatally shot student Claire Davis before killing himself.
Investigators believe his intended target was a speech coach who had disciplined him.
Freshman Abby Meyers told The Associated Press that teachers gave students some time to just hang out and talk. She said students were reminding one another that they were there to provide support.
"The community is so much stronger now that we're back," she said.
The Post reported that principal Natalie Pramenko sent a letter to parents assuring them additional sheriff's deputies would be at the campus and extra school district staff members would be on hand to help students.
A tribute to Davis that sprung up on a fence outside the school is gone, but students were greeted with the words "Love," ''Hope" and "Warrior Strong" spelled out with cups there.
Gov. John Hickenlooper and a panel of lawmakers marked Arapahoe's return to classes by announcing plans to shore up a hotline for anonymous tips on school violence.
The Safe2Tell hotline, created after the 1999 Columbine High School shooting, gives students a way to text or phone in threats or suspected violence or bullying. State officials say the hotline has received nearly 10,000 tips since its creation in 2004.
A proposal to be introduced this week at the Legislature would give the $250,000-a-year hotline staff a permanent place in the state budget, instead of relying on donations.
It's great to have a good program, but it doesn't do any good if nobody knows about it," said Hickenlooper, who said there were no tips on the Dec. 13 Arapahoe shooting, though Safe2Tell was available at the school.