Aptos High parents support kids.
Aptos High parents and friends of the community turned out in front of campus along Freedom Boulevard on Friday morning to greet students as they returned to school.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)
K-12 Education

‘I couldn’t not be there’: Aptos High parents, community bring the love as students return to school

Parents and others with close ties to the Aptos community turned out to support students and deal with their own grieving process Friday morning along Freedom Boulevard. Said one: “It hurt my heart. It’s tragic and unfathomable ... and there’s gonna be trauma.”

A group of Aptos High parents greeted students with hand-scrawled signs of encouragement along with loving waves and smiles at the front of the school along Freedom Boulevard on Friday morning.

It was the first day of school since Tuesday’s tragic stabbing death of a 17-year-old senior.

Robbie Bellue has three kids that have attended Aptos, including a current senior. His wife is a teacher at Valencia Elementary School and formerly taught the victim, whose name has not been released. Bellue stood holding a sign with a solitary heart on it.

“I just have a strong connection to the community and know what it’s like to lose someone at a young age and that struggle — I just wanted to connect,” he said. “I think this will bring the school together. They’ll look at each other with more humanity and more love and that’s the reason I’m holding a poster with a heart on it.”

Kaycee Beames, who is working on her teaching credential, learned about the rally through the Twin Lakes Church community.

“I couldn’t not be there,” she said. “I was heartbroken. This was horrible and we’re going to do everything possible to prevent it from happening again. I already see it happening.”

Lisa Murphy has an Aptos sophomore and two other children who graduated from the school. She said her son told her that there has been a lot of fighting on campus, “more than when my other boys were there.”

“I think that is a positive presence,” she said about the presence of a school resource officer. “It’s not just a cop in a uniform; there’s more to that program. That presence could’ve deterred the likelihood of fighting.”

The Pajaro Valley Unified School District board cut the SRO position from Aptos last year, a decision Santa Cruz County Sheriff Jim Hart has said was a poor, and dangerous, one.

Haley Forbes, who graduated from Aptos in 1988, said she just felt sadness.

“To be that confused and not consider a life as valuable,” she said. “It starts in elementary school to teach kids respect and not do harm to anyone. So if someone wants to harm someone they’re going to do it anyway. I don’t think the school could’ve done anything to stop it.”

Gina Wilhelm, an Aptos grad, an aunt to a current student and a therapist, said she came out to grieve with others and help the healing process begin.

“It hurt my heart. It’s tragic and unfathomable,” she said. “I’ve got huge empathy for these kids, and there’s gonna be trauma.”