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‘There’s not a lot of thinking’: Coaches, parents acted quickly to help after NKC High School shooting

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Posted at 7:21 PM, Mar 04, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-04 20:21:37-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — People from several school districts helped out during the chaotic aftermath of the shooting Saturday night at North Kansas City High School.

Dr. Rochel Daniels, North Kansas City School District superintendent, thanked multiple people who made sure students inside the school building were safe.

Among the dozens of names listed in Dr. Daniels's note were David Dempsey and Sherri Statler.

Dempsey is the debate coach at Liberty High School and Discovery Middle School.

He took 12 students to a debate tournament over the weekend at North Kansas City High School.

There was about an hour left in the tournament when students ran up to Dempsey and told him they heard there was an active shooter.

He didn’t realize he’d be applying the same problem-solving questions he uses as a debate coach to a dangerous, real life scenario.

“Here’s what we got for evidence, here’s what we got for logic, what’s the conclusion we’re gonna draw,” Dempsey said.

Saturday’s shooting reminded him of a similar incident in the summer in Springfield, Mo.

“Liberty dealt with this last summer at a tournament we had down south,” Dempsey said.

Unlike that incident, which took place during a debate tournament close to, but not on school grounds, Saturday’s incident was right outside the school building.

In both incidents, priorities were the same.

“My first priority was to make sure that the students were okay, to make sure that we were finding everyone where they needed to be,” Dempsey said.

He says collaboration between staff across districts was instrumental in keeping students safe after Saturday's shooting.

“This was absolutely a united front and a united coalition of, ‘This is the training we have, this is what we're doing," Dempsey said.

Those split-second decisions came in especially handy for Sherri and Saylor Statler.

They left the district semifinal boys basketball game between North Kansas City and Staley a few minutes early.

Saylor was cheering for Staley, where's she's a junior, but had to leave early for work.

They were outside when they heard gunshots. Their immediate reaction was to run back inside to safety , but that changed when they heard someone yelling.

“My mom was initially the person who heard the kid say, ‘I’m shot, I’m shot,’ and once we got him to the bathroom, my dad put pressure on the bullet wound, and then me and my mom got paper towels for him, just tried to make him feel as comfortable as possible,” Saylor Statler said.

Her mom, Sherri, says there was no option but to act quickly in that moment.

"I think when you’re in a moment like that there’s not a lot of thinking, just a call to action," she said.

All they want for now is the shooting victim’s comfort.

“He was very brave, and I just want him to know that we’re proud of him, and I hope that his community and his family raise him up also,” Sherri Statler said.

Both say as difficult as it’s been to grapple with what happened, they don’t want the conversation about the shooting to stop.

“I can’t imagine what that parent is going through," Sherri Statler said. "I know what I was feeling for Saylor at the time, wanting to make sure that she was safe, so keep talking to each other."

As a debate coach, Dempsey agrees communication is key.

“We’re gonna have to sit down and have some hard conversations and say, ‘Here’s how we help people recover, here’s how we help people recover from hurt," he said. “When everyone closes the door and says, ‘I’m not talking,' to each other, there’s not a consensus of unity, and unity is what we need right now,” he said.