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How often were parents updated after shooting at Suncoast High School?

Parents praise 'hero' officer who shot 'suspicious person'
Suncoast High School, April 22, 2024
Posted at 6:30 PM, Apr 23, 2024

RIVIERA BEACH, Fla. — As students headed back to Suncoast High School in Riviera Beach on Tuesday, the school is continuing to provide extra counselors and mental health support for those impacted by the shooting that happened on campus Monday morning.

A Riviera Beach police officer was working in conjunction with the Palm Beach County School District Police Department when she was monitoring the staff entrance of the school Monday morning.

Police said the suspect, Delroy Thomas, walked onto the property past her. She radioed for backup because of the "suspicious person" and, according to the police report, Thomas attacked her.

Witnesses said "he was trying to hurt the officer with his hands and legs" and "he was swinging his arms at her." Police said she was forced to fire her weapon. Thomas remains in the hospital.

Many parents praised how the school handled the situation and the officer's actions.

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Holly Galloway has two sons who attend Suncoast High School.

"The fact that she responded so quickly ... it's hard for me to contain how grateful I am that she got that threat out of the way before anybody got hurt," Galloway said.

"In those moments, it's natural to want to know everything. Did you feel like you were kept as informed as you could have been?" WPTV education reporter Stephanie Susskind asked Galloway.

"Yeah and in fact I don't want them focusing on anything but minimizing the threat," she replied.

The officer-involved shooting occurred at about 7:15 a.m. Monday. The school sent out a series of four phone calls and messages to parents throughout the day to keep them informed.

Holly Galloway tells WPTV education reporter Stephanie Susskind why she approved of the way officials at Suncoast High School handled the situation following Monday's shooting.
Holly Galloway tells WPTV education reporter Stephanie Susskind why she approved of the way officials at Suncoast High School handled the situation following Monday's shooting.

The first message went out at 7:56 a.m., telling parents the school was in limited movement due to law enforcement on campus and that students and staff on campus were safe and secure. It also said there was no active threat.

A follow-up message at 8:30 a.m. announced the transition to a code yellow and provided procedures for parents who wanted to pick up their kids early. More details were released in messages at 1:15 p.m. and 3:40 p.m., providing more details about the incident, mental health support available and after-school schedules.

School board member Erica Whitfield's daughter attends Suncoast High School so she saw the situation play out from two different perspectives.

"I was getting information with the rest of the families out there as things were coming out," Whitfield said. "This has been a good experience for me to be a part of this and to see the inner workings and what happens as a parent, so I'm just really grateful that every child went home yesterday," she said.

"Is there anything you think could be improved upon after looking at how this incident played out?" Susskind asked.

Palm Beach County School Board member Erica Whitfield shared with WPTV education reporter Stephanie Susskind her thoughts on the shooting at Suncoast High School.
Palm Beach County School Board member Erica Whitfield shared with WPTV education reporter Stephanie Susskind her thoughts on the shooting at Suncoast High School.

"Parents really wanted to hear something sooner, but the priority is safety first and then communications, and so I think they did the best that they could to make sure kids were safe first and then we work on getting the word out," Whitfield replied. "But if there's something we can do to get the word out sooner obviously we would like to do that."

Whitfield said her daughter had just arrived at school when the shooting happened.

"She called me at about at about 7:25 and said, 'Mom there's been a shooting at the school,' and they ran back to her car and got in her car, and she was asking me what to do," Whitfield said.

Her daughter stayed in her car and then left campus.

"It was a tense time, and in the moment I felt very confident in her ability to get out of harm's way," Whitfield said. "But as I thought about it later in the day, and I spent time reliving the moments of what was going on and getting updates throughout the day of what had really occurred, I started really being more upset because she was so close to where the shooting happened."

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However, the school board member praised the officer's actions.

"Overall, I'm really proud of the police officer for protecting my daughter and every other student on the Suncoast campus in a really tough situation, so I'm really glad that everyone walked away safe," Whitfield said. "Anybody who called, I was telling them, 'Hang in there, your kids are safe,' and that's really what parents need to know. I think it was a challenging situation. It will always be a challenging situation when these things happen, but as a district, I was very proud of the way we did it."

In a time when school police officers are often criticized for not doing enough when there is a threat on campus, Galloway said she believes this officer did everything right.

"Don't you dare come at us for a school officer who stands up and does exactly what she was supposed to do in exactly the right time and exactly the right measure and make her feel like anything less than a hero, because that's exactly what she is."