Former Pearl High principal reflects on his own experiences following school shooting in Texas

Published: May. 25, 2022 at 11:05 PM CDT
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PEARL, Miss. (WLBT) - It’s been more than 24 hours since the horrific school shooting at a Texas elementary school.

Investigators say a gunman killed at least 21 people, 19 children, and two adults, at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

For many people, this comes as devastating news, especially for Roy Balentine.

“I think it’s just a testimony of the world in which we live right now where there’s a lot of evil,” the former educator expressed.

His mind goes back to one of the first school shootings that made national headlines.It happened in October of 1997 at Pearl High School. Balentine was only in his third month as the school’s principal.

“It brings a lot of memories, reopens a lot of old wounds for myself,” Balentine recalled. “I recall a lot of chaos. School had not even started that morning when it happened so students were not in classrooms yet and all of the students had not arrived. I also remember a lot of really good staff members that we had that really stepped up to the plate and put their own lives in harm’s way to make sure that they helped the students get as much protection as they possibly could under the circumstances, and were helping get them moved to safer areas of the school to barricade them from the shooter.”

Luke Woodham murdered his mother that morning, then went into the school killing two students and shooting and injuring seven others. At the time, Balentine said he thought it was an isolated incident and didn’t think these shootings would continue to happen decades later.

“And it’s reached even beyond the school as you know to supermarkets, places of worship, movie theaters. It’s almost like you feel is there a place that’s safe anymore,” said Balentine. However, out of this tragedy came a new mission for Balentine. He formed his own company, School Safety Consultants, LLC where he works with schools and communities on school safety and crisis management. The former educator said there are multiple factors leading to these senseless and tragic shootings.

”You have the mental health issue, there’s a lack of parental involvement issues, there’s the law enforcement and school safety issue, there’s a technology component that has its place in helping produce safe environments,” Balentine explained. “I don’t think you can say any one piece of that is the answer, but I think collectively if we can put all those moving parts together, we can greatly minimize the risk of these things happening.”

Woodham, who was 16 at the time of the incident, is still behind bars serving three life sentences. He was also given seven 20-year sentences for each of the aggravated assault convictions.

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