MATTHEWS – In the hours after a deadly shooting inside Butler High School on Oct. 29, Bulldogs’ wrestling coach and physical education teacher Van Barkley had seen on social media and heard a lot of false rumors floating around what happened after the shooting.
So, Barkley filmed a short video after the school went into a lockdown to explain what really happened in the aftermath of the shooting. Barkley titled his video, “Let us clear up some things.” Barkley posted the video to his Facebook page and as of Nov. 5, the video had been seen almost 130,000 times after being shared almost 2,200 times.
The lockdown was called after freshman Jatwan Cuffie allegedly shot and killed sophomore Bobby McKeithen during an altercation in a hallway near the cafeteria. Cuffie went to a classroom and then surrendered to police about six minutes after the shooting. Cuffie has been charged with first-degree murder and is currently in the Mecklenburg County Jail.
Social media exploded with condemnation of what turned out to be false rumors that Butler had resumed classes following the fatal shooting. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools officials said only around 100 of the 2,200 students remained at school the entire day as almost all students were checked out after the lockdown was lifted.
“Bad information got out there, and people took it and just ran with it,” Barkley said. “My thought process was that I was tired of typing out what happened. I wanted to show from a teacher’s side what was really going on. We never talked about going back to class.”
The shooting occurred around 7:15 a.m., just before classes were set to start. Many students had not yet arrived at their first-block classes.
Barkley started the video saying he was not discussing the shooting itself but what happened in the hours after the event. Below is a transcript from the video.
“Before school started, a lockdown was called. When a lockdown happens before school starts or during a class change, teachers are instructed to grab whatever students they can, place them in their classroom and lock the door behind them. For over two hours, we remained in this lockdown. I myself was in a lockeroom with several other PE teachers with over 100 students, many that were not in PE classes.
“When police told Butler that we could remove the lockdown, we moved to our second block class. This was not done so we could resume a normal school day as many of you have heard. We did not teach yesterday (on Oct. 29). We did not test yesterday (Oct. 29). Instead, we moved our students to second block so we could account for where they were. Imagine a parent’s anger and confusion when they came to pick up their child after this tragic event and we could not find them.
“We would have to call the gym, the auditorium, the cafeteria, many classrooms before we could find their student. If we moved them to their second-block classes, we could account for them, it would be much easier to move these students along as their parents came to check them out. We did not teach. Again, we did not teach. We did not test. But instead, teachers are there for their students to provide any support that they needed. We mourned together. We reflected together. We were there for each other because that is what Butler High School does. We stand as a family. We are Butler, and we are Butler strong.”
Barkley said he was surprised that his video went viral.
“I’m extremely surprised because I thought it might reach the immediate Matthews, Mint Hill area because that is where a majority of my friends are located at,” Barkley said. “I thought it would maybe get 2,000 views. But it took off.”
Classes were canceled the day after the shooting and Oct. 31 had already been scheduled as a teacher workday with no students on campus. Students returned to classes on Nov. 1. Barkley said the time off benefited students and teachers alike. Barkley went to the school on both Oct. 30 and 31.
“It was good to be around other teachers so we could talk and discuss our feelings,” Barkley said. “There were counselors here and they were a great help. We needed a day off just like the students needed a day off.”
Barkley said it will take some time for the school to completely heal.
“We have had tremendous community support,” Barkley said. “People were definitely upset about it when school resumed that first day. I’m glad there were grief counselors here, and I am glad my students took advantage of that. That first day was a slow day. We kind of let the students in PE dictate what they wanted to do. We wanted to get a feel for what they were ready for. Today (Nov. 5) was pretty normal. We are right back in the middle of things. Everybody is back to business but still in the remembrance phase.”
A funeral service was held for McKeithen on Nov. 3 before a large crowd of family and friends at Progressive Baptist Church in Charlotte. Butler Principal John LeGrand was one of several speakers at the event and said the entire school was heartbroken by McKeithen’s death.
“Above all, we’re going to miss Bobby,” LeGrand said. “We’re going to miss his infectious personality, his love for life, that beautiful smile he brought to school with him each day. We’re going to miss that.”
Barkley’s video can be seen on the CMS Twitter account @CharMeckSchools.