Dadeville High School helping students cope after deadly mass shooting

Published: May. 1, 2023 at 5:00 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - It’s been more than two weeks since the deadly mass shooting in Dadeville, Alabama, that shocked the community. We have a new reaction tonight from the schools attended by many of the victims...with four lives lost and 32 more injured during that sweet 16 birthday party.

Six people have been arrested and charged in connection with the loved ones wrapped up the funeral and memorial services for the victims lost this past weekend..

Dadeville high school has been working to offer counseling and coping mechanisms for students during this tragic time.

“Eerily quiet… no noise whatsoever,” said Dadeville High School principal Chris Hand.

That was the response after asking Dadeville High School principal Chris Hand what the environment in school Monday was like following the April 15th deadly mass shooting… killing two Dadeville high school students, one alumnus along with another student from Opelika high school… while also leaving 32 people injured.

“I made the comment when I went to the lunchroom where its normally, you know, a place of social, a place of gathering, and it was just… event among the adults, teachers and staff just extremely quiet,” said Hand.

A sweet 16 birthday party that left the small town of Dadeville with a horrific memory that will be felt for a lifetime…

Hand said following the tragic event, multiple councilors, pastors, therapy dogs and those with East Alabama mental health provided services to help students cope with the situation.

“They love the dogs; the dogs are a comfort and peace, and it just gives them a sense of normalcy, a sense of getting back to what they have remembered so I believe that that has helped. Just being able to have a place that they know and people that that they know to come back to school,” he said.

Hand said his last memory of KeKe Smith and Phil Dowdell was Friday… a day before the mass shooting… he remembers how happy they were competing at the track meet at Troy University.

“I got to remember them doing what they liked, doing what they enjoyed. They were both joys to be around, personalities just so generous, giving, working with the younger students. Phil was Mr. DHS, KeKe was involved in Volleyball.”

Hand said help will continue to be available for students.

A senior banquet will be held next week at First Baptist Church, where scholarships will be given out in honor of KeKe and Phil.

“We got some different awards that community members would like to provide in their memory and their honor.”

The principal of Dadeville High School also tells me the day of graduation. They will have a special memorial in honor of Phil Dowdell and Keke Smith.