“You are our future,” she told the assembly, which was gathered in part to remember two Butler students who were fatally shot – Furrer’s son, Brandon Taylor, and Tykiah Palmer.
“...You all will have the opportunity to graduate. Brandon and Tykiah won’t,” she said.
The gathering in Butler’s gym was the second in as many days -- part of the school’s “Get Up” campaign to encourage students to stay away from gang and gun violence.
Furrer told students that certain things they might think are serious enough to fight over really aren’t.
“What I really want you to take and learn today is things are not that serious where you have to beat someone, and God forbid, kill someone,” she said. “There’s no coming back from murder.”
She also spoke about so-called turf wars, noting that “none of you own a neighborhood. Your parents own the home you live in.”
In the case of Furrer’s son, police say the 16-year-old was shot and killed on Monte Carlo Drive in a January incident believed to be gang-related. Just last month, Tykiah, a 16-year-old Butler student 28 weeks pregnant, was fatally shot in the chest by a 15-year-old after she reportedly tried to defend her younger brother when a “play fight” between the two boys escalated, according to police.
And a third Butler student was severely beaten on Circular Drive earlier this week while walking his girlfriend home from school. Police arrested two teens at Butler in the case who reportedly said they were members of the “Apple Valley Posse” gang and said they had been prowling the area looking for someone to attack
Mae Palmer, the grandmother of Tykiah, also spoke to students today.
“The person who took her life could not find anything within himself to draw on,” she said. “Instead, he drew a gun.”
She read from a letter Tykiah had written in October, 2009 that detailed how Tykiah had improved her grades and had future goals of graduating high school and attending college.
“I have plenty of goals I have set for myself,” the letter read. “...I will not let anything bring me down.”
Also at today’s assembly, students heard musical performances by both the school’s choir and a Butler graduate. They also watched a candle lighting ceremony and participated in a moment of silence to honor the two students who died.
Butler Principal Gregory Thompson then told students that their yearbook would include two pages memorializing Brandon and Tykiah.
“These two pages are going to be special,” he said. “This is a way of keeping their memory alive.”
Reach Preston Sparks at (706) 828-3851 or firstname.lastname@example.org