District, city leaders respond to protest over Huntsville High School's handling of student's death

The protest was Wednesday afternoon during students' free study hour, also known as power hour.

Posted: Apr. 24, 2019 9:26 PM
Updated: Apr. 24, 2019 10:43 PM

On Wednesday, students walked out of Huntsville High School to show their displeasure at how the school handled the recent suicide of a student, Nigel Shelby.

School officials confirm a few dozen students used their free study hour, or power hour, to "talk and express themselves over the recent passing of Huntsville High freshman Nigel Shelby."

WAAY 31 reached out to Huntsville City Schools board member Walker McGinnis who represents Huntsville High School. He said he applauds the school administration for their response to Shelby's death. He made special mention of the school's principal, Aaron King, who he said is known for listening to students and letting them be heard.

We also tried to get Mayor Tommy Battle's response to Shelby's death and how it's shoved Huntsville into the national spotlight, drawing commentary from celebrities, presidential candidates and national news outlets. Battle declined to comment and said he wants to leave any official statements to the school board because they know the facts and the family's wishes.

However, Councilwoman Frances Akridge did agree to comment and said now is the time for Huntsville to step up.

"If this is something that would be a tipping point for the rest of the nation to start thinking about mental heath in a really constructive way, then so be it. Huntsville is used to leading the way, and we can do it here too," Akridge said.

Akridge went on to say she's encouraging everyone to take a look at how they treat one another.

Huntsville City Schools spokesperson, Keith Ward, provided WAAY 31 with the following statement on Wednesday:

"Today during power hour, a few dozen students gathered in the campus courtyard around the flagpole to talk and express themselves over the recent passing of Huntsville High Freshman, Nigel Shelby. School staff were there to ensure student safety and to provide support as students work through their feelings of sadness, anger, and frustration. No students were punished for participating in this gathering around the flagpole. Counselors and other district staff will continue to be on campus to help students and school staff as they work through this terrible loss. Our goal is to promote student learning in an environment that empowers students to think about difficult issues and to make connections between others and themselves in an atmosphere of respect and empathy."

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