From Mill Creek Elementary to Hickman High School, the death of Officer Molly Bowden has inspired an outpouring of support from students and faculty throughout Columbia.
Handmade cards from elementary classes, banners with student messages of appreciation for the police and weeklong fund-raisers for the Officer Down Fund are some of the contributions that have grown from some of the community’s youngest members.
Students at Midway Heights Elementary, where Bowden attended fifth and sixth grade, have created cards and letters for the Bowden family since the Jan. 10 shooting. Many feel a close connection to Bowden’s parents, David and Beverly Thomas, who are residents of the Midway Heights neighborhood.
Principal Linda Klopfenstein, who is also a neighbor of the family, said many of her students plan to attend the funeral Tuesday. The school’s student council is interested in creating an outdoor memorial for their fallen graduate.
JoNetta Weaver, principal of Shepard Boulevard Elementary, said the tragedy demonstrates why the community should value its law enforcement officers as heroes.
“Sometimes we’ve lost that sense of respect for those people that are putting themselves in front of us,” Weaver said. “That is the message I wanted to teach our children as a result of awareness of Molly. I hope the city of Columbia has a deeper appreciation for what police officers do every day and that they just don’t forget.”
Rather than initially responding with cards, flowers and other signs of care, some elementary school teachers are first having conversations in the classrooms and encouraging parents to discuss how to deal with tragic situations at home.
Teachers at Rock Bridge Elementary are taking cues from their students by monitoring their reactions and responding with conversations while also having a counselor on hand, said Mary Korth-Lloyd, the school’s principal.
At Shepard, Weaver sent out a “Call to Action” to all parents giving them the responsibility to talk to their children about possible community contributions.
In addition to grieving for Bowden, schools are also focusing on making their own student resource officers, drug prevention officers and police representatives a strong part of students’ everyday lives.
At Oakland Junior High, many students have sent sympathy cards to their resource officer, Linda Fincham, and bought tickets for Saturday’s benefit barbecue for the Officer Down Fund.
Mill Creek Elementary is also collecting money from its students and parents to donate to the Officer Down Fund in the name of their Drug Abuse Resistance Education officer, Melvin Buckner. Mill Creek fifth-graders will also make posters to put on display at The Scoop ice cream parlor to serve as community reminders to donate.
Students and teachers at Lange Middle School felt the death of Bowden on a more personal level — Bowden’s husband, Corey, is the school’s new student resource officer.
Principal Tom Schlimpert wants his students to understand that as members of a larger community, they have a moral obligation to support police officers.
“I think a tragedy like this has a sobering effect on the community,” he said. “We live in a pristine world and a wonderful community. Individuals who have personal issues take a piece from all of us. It makes us sit back and look around us, and to support those individuals.”