Classes resume at Florida high school two weeks after massacre

PARKLAND, Fla., Feb 28 (Reuters) - Students and teachers traumatized by one of the country's deadliest mass shootings returned to classes on Wednesday with white ribbons and white roses to honor the 17 people killed by a gunman in their Florida high school two weeks ago.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School reopened most of its doors for about 3,000 students at 7:40 a.m. EST (1240 GMT) for a half-day schedule. The building where most of the victims died will remain closed indefinitely.

Nicholas Rodrigues, 15, a freshman who lives in Coral Springs with his parents and two sisters, said he walked the mile to school on Wednesday rather than ride his Black Mongoose bicycle because “wanted to think about things.”

School buses arrived shortly after 7 a.m., with several hundred police officers on hand to escort students, who wore the school's colors of burgundy and white, to make them feel safe.

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Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students return to school
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Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students return to school
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School staff, teachers and students return to school greeted by police and well wishers in Parkland, Florida on February 28, 2018. Students grieving for slain classmates prepared for an emotional return Wednesday to their Florida high school, where a mass shooting shocked the nation and led teen survivors to spur a growing movement to tighten America's gun laws. The community of Parkland, Florida, where residents were plunged into tragedy two weeks ago, steeled itself for the resumption of classes at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where nearby flower-draped memorials and 17 white crosses pay tribute to the 14 students and three staff members who were murdered by a former student. / AFP PHOTO / RHONA WISE (Photo credit should read RHONA WISE/AFP/Getty Images)
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School staff, teachers and students return to school greeted by police and well wishers in Parkland, Florida on February 28, 2018. Students grieving for slain classmates prepared for an emotional return Wednesday to their Florida high school, where a mass shooting shocked the nation and led teen survivors to spur a growing movement to tighten America's gun laws. The community of Parkland, Florida, where residents were plunged into tragedy two weeks ago, steeled itself for the resumption of classes at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where nearby flower-draped memorials and 17 white crosses pay tribute to the 14 students and three staff members who were murdered by a former student. / AFP PHOTO / RHONA WISE (Photo credit should read RHONA WISE/AFP/Getty Images)
PARKLAND, FL - FEBRUARY 28: A student is hugged as she arrives for classes at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School for the first time since the shooting that killed 17 people on February 14 at the school on February 28, 2018 in Parkland, Florida. Police arrested 19-year-old former student Nikolas Cruz for the 17 murders. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
PARKLAND, FL - FEBRUARY 28: A student holds a flower and a button that reads,' #MSDSTRONG,' as she arrives for classes at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School for the first time since the shooting that killed 17 people on February 14 at the school on February 28, 2018 in Parkland, Florida. Police arrested 19-year-old former student Nikolas Cruz for the 17 murders. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
PARKLAND, FL - FEBRUARY 28: Police officers stand in front of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School as student arrive to attend classes for the first time since the shooting that killed 17 people on February 14 at the school on February 28, 2018 in Parkland, Florida. Police arrested 19-year-old former student Nikolas Cruz for the 17 murders. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
PARKLAND, FL - FEBRUARY 28: Diane Shaw, a crossing guard stops traffic for students as they cross to attend classes at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School for the first time since the shooting that killed 17 people on February 14 at the school on February 28, 2018 in Parkland, Florida. Police arrested 19-year-old former student Nikolas Cruz for the 17 murders. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School staff, teachers and students return to school greeted by police and well wishers in Parkland, Florida on February 28, 2018. Students grieving for slain classmates prepared for an emotional return Wednesday to their Florida high school, where a mass shooting shocked the nation and led teen survivors to spur a growing movement to tighten America's gun laws. The community of Parkland, Florida, where residents were plunged into tragedy two weeks ago, steeled itself for the resumption of classes at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where nearby flower-draped memorials and 17 white crosses pay tribute to the 14 students and three staff members who were murdered by a former student. / AFP PHOTO / RHONA WISE (Photo credit should read RHONA WISE/AFP/Getty Images)
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School staff, teachers and students return to school greeted by police and well wishers in Parkland, Florida on February 28, 2018. Students grieving for slain classmates prepared for an emotional return Wednesday to their Florida high school, where a mass shooting shocked the nation and led teen survivors to spur a growing movement to tighten America's gun laws. The community of Parkland, Florida, where residents were plunged into tragedy two weeks ago, steeled itself for the resumption of classes at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where nearby flower-draped memorials and 17 white crosses pay tribute to the 14 students and three staff members who were murdered by a former student. / AFP PHOTO / RHONA WISE (Photo credit should read RHONA WISE/AFP/Getty Images)
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School staff, teachers and students return to school greeted by police and well wishers in Parkland, Florida on February 28, 2018. Students grieving for slain classmates prepared for an emotional return Wednesday to their Florida high school, where a mass shooting shocked the nation and led teen survivors to spur a growing movement to tighten America's gun laws. The community of Parkland, Florida, where residents were plunged into tragedy two weeks ago, steeled itself for the resumption of classes at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where nearby flower-draped memorials and 17 white crosses pay tribute to the 14 students and three staff members who were murdered by a former student. / AFP PHOTO / RHONA WISE (Photo credit should read RHONA WISE/AFP/Getty Images)
PARKLAND, FL - FEBRUARY 28: Students wait at a crosswalk as they arrive to attend classes at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School for the first time since the shooting that killed 17 people on February 14 at the school on February 28, 2018 in Parkland, Florida. Police arrested 19-year-old former student Nikolas Cruz for the 17 murders. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School staff, teachers and students return to school greeted by police and well wishers in Parkland, Florida on February 28, 2018. Students grieving for slain classmates prepared for an emotional return Wednesday to their Florida high school, where a mass shooting shocked the nation and led teen survivors to spur a growing movement to tighten America's gun laws. The community of Parkland, Florida, where residents were plunged into tragedy two weeks ago, steeled itself for the resumption of classes at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where nearby flower-draped memorials and 17 white crosses pay tribute to the 14 students and three staff members who were murdered by a former student. / AFP PHOTO / RHONA WISE (Photo credit should read RHONA WISE/AFP/Getty Images)
PARKLAND, FL - FEBRUARY 28: Students wait at a crosswalk as they arrive to attend classes at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School for the first time since the shooting that killed 17 people on February 14 at the school on February 28, 2018 in Parkland, Florida. Police arrested 19-year-old former student Nikolas Cruz for the 17 murders. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
PARKLAND, FL - FEBRUARY 28: People arrive at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School as students arrive to attend classes for the first time since the shooting that killed 17 people on February 14 at the school on February 28, 2018 in Parkland, Florida. Police arrested 19-year-old former student Nikolas Cruz for the 17 murders. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School staff, teachers and students return to school greeted by police and well wishers in Parkland, Florida on February 28, 2018. Students grieving for slain classmates prepared for an emotional return Wednesday to their Florida high school, where a mass shooting shocked the nation and led teen survivors to spur a growing movement to tighten America's gun laws. The community of Parkland, Florida, where residents were plunged into tragedy two weeks ago, steeled itself for the resumption of classes at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where nearby flower-draped memorials and 17 white crosses pay tribute to the 14 students and three staff members who were murdered by a former student. / AFP PHOTO / RHONA WISE (Photo credit should read RHONA WISE/AFP/Getty Images)
PARKLAND, FL - FEBRUARY 28: Police officers stand in front of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School as students arrive to attend classes for the first time since the shooting that killed 17 people on February 14 at the school on February 28, 2018 in Parkland, Florida. Police arrested 19-year-old former student Nikolas Cruz for the 17 murders. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
PARKLAND, FL - FEBRUARY 28: People offer support as they stand in front of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School as student arrive to attend classes for the first time since the shooting that killed 17 people on February 14 at the school on February 28, 2018 in Parkland, Florida. Police arrested 19-year-old former student Nikolas Cruz for the 17 murders. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
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Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jamie was killed in the massacre, said he was not afraid for his surviving son, also a student at Douglas, because it is now the safest school in America.

"But [it's] bittersweet because my son walks in here without his sister," Guttenberg told CNN on Wednesday. "This is not what we envisioned for ourselves watching our kids go through high school."

State legislators are considering a bill that would pay to demolish Building 12, widely known as the freshman building, and replace it with a memorial to the victims of the Feb. 14 massacre.

Teenage survivors of the carnage have launched an extraordinary student-led campaign to lobby lawmakers on Capitol Hill and the statehouse in Tallahassee for new restrictions on firearms.

But many express deep trepidation about returning to the scene of a shooting rampage that ranks as the second-deadliest act of gun violence at an American public school.

"It’s just really hard to think about," David Hogg, a senior who has become one of the school's leading gun-safety activists, told NBC News on Tuesday. "Imagine getting in a plane crash and having to get back on the same plane again and again and again and being expected to learn and act like nothing’s wrong."

A former Stoneman Douglas student, Nikolas Cruz, 19, who authorities say was expelled last year for unspecified disciplinary problems and had numerous run-ins in the law, has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder.

ALLEGED GUNMAN DUE IN COURT

As surviving students faced a daunting return to the hallways and classrooms where classmates and teachers died, Cruz was due back in court on Wednesday for a hearing to determine whether he has the assets to pay for his own defense. His mother died in November.

14 PHOTOS
Florida high school shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz
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Florida high school shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz
Photo Credit: Broward County Sheriff’s Office
Photo Credit: Instagram
Nikolas Cruz (C) appears via video monitor with Melisa McNeill (R), his public defender, at a bond court hearing after being charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, U.S., February 15, 2018. REUTERS/Susan Stocker/Pool
Suspected school shooter Nikolas Cruz makes a video appearance in Broward County court before Judge Kim Theresa Mollica on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018. Cruz is facing 17 charges of premeditated murder in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. (Susan Stocker/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
Suspected school shooter Nikolas Cruz makes a video appearance in Broward County court before Judge Kim Theresa Mollica on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018. Cruz is facing 17 charges of premeditated murder in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. (Susan Stocker/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
Suspected school shooter Nikolas Cruz makes a video appearance in Broward County court before Judge Kim Theresa Mollica on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018. Cruz is facing 17 charges of premeditated murder in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. (Susan Stocker/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
Suspected school shooter Nikolas Cruz makes a video appearance in Broward County court before Judge Kim Theresa Mollica on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018. Cruz is facing 17 charges of premeditated murder in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. (Susan Stocker/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
FORT LAUDERDALE, FL - FEBRUARY 15: Nikolas Cruz, 19, a former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where he allegedly killed 17 people, is seen on a closed circuit television screen during a bond hearing in front of Broward Judge Kim Mollica at the Broward County Courthouse on February 15, 2018 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Mr. Cruz is possibly facing 17 counts of premeditated murder in the school shooting. (Photo by Susan Stocker - Pool/Getty Images)
FORT LAUDERDALE, FL - FEBRUARY 15: Prosecutor Shari Tate (L) attends the hearing for Nikolas Cruz, 19, a former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where he allegedly killed 17 people, during a bond hearing in front of Broward Judge Kim Mollica at the Broward County Courthouse on February 15, 2018 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Mr. Cruz is possibly facing 17 counts of premeditated murder in the school shooting. (Photo by Susan Stocker - Pool/Getty Images)
FORT LAUDERDALE, FL - FEBRUARY 15: Nikolas Cruz, 19, a former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where he allegedly killed 17 people, is seen on a closed circuit television screen during a bond hearing in front of Broward Judge Kim Mollica at the Broward County Courthouse on February 15, 2018 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Mr. Cruz is possibly facing 17 counts of premeditated murder in the school shooting. (Photo by Susan Stocker - Pool/Getty Images)
Nikolas Cruz, facing 17 charges of premeditated murder in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, appears in court for a status hearing before Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, U.S. February 19, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Stocker/Pool
Nikolas Cruz, facing 17 charges of premeditated murder in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, appears in court for a status hearing in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, U.S. February 19, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Stocker/Pool TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Nikolas Cruz, facing 17 charges of premeditated murder in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, appears in court for a status hearing in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, U.S. February 19, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Stocker/Pool
Nikolas Cruz, facing 17 charges of premeditated murder in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, appears in court for a status hearing before Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, U.S. February 19, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Stocker/Pool
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He is accused of carrying out the shooting rampage with a semiautomatic AR-15-style assault weapon that he legally purchased from a licensed gun dealer last year, when he was 18 years of age.

Besides reigniting a national debate between advocates of tougher firearms restrictions and proponents of gun rights enshrined in the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the shooting as raised questions about the role of law enforcement in events leading up to the massacre.

The Broward County Sheriff's Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have faced criticism that they failed to properly follow through on multiple tips warning that Cruz had the potential and capacity for deadly violence.

Sheriff Scott Israel has come under heavy criticism after disclosing that one of his armed deputies, assigned as the school resource officer, stayed outside of the building while it was under attack rather than make entry to confront the gunman. The deputy later resigned rather than face disciplinary action, Israel said.

The sheriff has acknowledged his office is examining reports from a neighboring police department that three more deputies who were present took cover outside the building with guns drawn rather than go into the school immediately.

Israel, a Democrat first elected sheriff in 2012, has said that calls for his removal by a group of 74 Republican state lawmakers is politically motivated and that he has no intention of stepping down.

On Tuesday in Tallahassee, the state capital, the House Appropriations Committee voted to raise the minimum legal age for purchasing all rifles to 21 from 18 and impose a three-day waiting period for any gun purchases. Buyers of handguns must already be at least 21 and submit to a three-day wait.

The measure also would create a statewide program to arm specially trained teachers - subject to school district approval - while assigning more police as school resource officers and allowing police to confiscate weapons from people who are involuntarily committed as a danger to themselves or others.

In addition, the measure would outlaw the sale of bump stocks, devices that enable semiautomatic rifles to be operated as fully automatic machine guns. The panel rejected a Democratic-backed amendment to ban assault-style weapons, like the one used by the gunman in the Florida school attack.

The package now must win approval in the full Republican-controlled legislature before it goes to Governor Rick Scott, also a Republican, for his signature. (Additional reporting by Gina Cherelus in New York and Bernie Woodall in Parkland Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore and Bill Trott)

17 PHOTOS
Victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting
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Victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting

Scott Beige - Geography Teacher

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Elizabeth James Watt​​​​​​​

Chris Hixon - athletic director

Photo Credit: Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School

15-year-old Alyssa Alhadeff

Photo Credit: Florida Youth Soccer Association

14-year-old Alex Schachter

Photo Credit : Getty 

14-year-old Cara Loughran

Photo Credit: Facebook

17-year-old Helena Ramsey

Photo Credit: Facebook

14-year-old Alaina Petty

Photo Credit: Facebook

14-year-old Gina Montalto

Photo Credit: Facebook

15-year-old Peter Wang
18-year-old Meadow Pollack (left)

Student Jaime Guttenberg

Photo Credit: Facebook 

Student Martin Duque

Photo Credit: Martin Duque/GoFundMe

17-year-old student Nick Dworet

Photo Credit: Instagram 

Football coach Aaron Feis.

Photo Credit: MSDfootball.com

16-year-old student Carmen Schentrup

Student Joaquin Oliver

Photo Credit: Facebook

Student Luke Hoyer

Photo Credit: Facebook 

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