On February 29, 2016, Cooper Caffrey, a high school student at Madison High in Middletown, Ohio, was sitting in his school’s cafeteria eating his chicken nuggets when says he remembers inexplicably falling to the ground in confusion. Cooper recalls that he didn’t even realize he’d been shot as he watched his fellow students running away in terror. That day three other students were also injured during the school shooting, thankfully there were no fatalities.
Here’s a video of Cooper speaking at the sentencing hearing of James Austin Hancock, the young man who shot him.
Earlier in March, Cooper decided to participate in a school walkout to show solidarity for the victims of the tragic school shooting in Parkland, Florida that claimed 17 lives. However, school administrators, who are also conservatives in a right-leaning county, opposed the demonstration.
So after the walkout, Cooper and 42 other students who walked out were given detention for their actions.
Before the walkout, Madison students met with school officials several times. Initially, according to a school spokesperson, the students agreed that they would only wear the school colors of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (the site of the Parkland shooting) and not conduct a walkout.
According to his father, Cooper had no intention of protesting on the day of the walkout.
But on the morning of March 14, after kissing his dad on the cheek, Cooper got out the family car without saying a word.
During the day, the school principal announced over the intercom explaining the significance of why some students were wearing school colors associated with the Florida high school. But he also cautioned students that anyone who participates in activities deemed disruptive to the school day would face disciplinary action.
Cooper was furious, upset because he felt administrators were taunting the students and it bothered him that he cared as much as he did.
After texting his dad, later that morning Cooper and 42 other students walked outside into the courtyard. The students were directed to go to this location by school officials who felt that having the students demonstrate in front of the school would somehow be too dangerous.
However, students did try to march to the flagpole in front of the school, despite the instructions from school officials not to. They only made it to the side of the building before resource officers managed to stop them.
The students finished their 17-minute demonstration with a prayer.
A few days later, Cooper and his father attended their first Madison school board meeting. After some other items where discussed, Superintendent Curtis Philpot finally addressed the walkout. He noted that he expected that there would be more protests in April, including one to commemorate the 19th anniversary of the Columbine school shooting.
He then addressed the board, asking if they had any questions or concerns about the decision to punish Cooper and the 42 other students involved in the walkout. None raised any objections.
“We are a society of rules,” one said.
However, Board President David French went even further insisting that the students owed the school resource officer an apology.
It was then that Cooper turned to his dad, who said that he could see the blood draining from his son’s face.
“It was like being shot all over again,” he would later tell his dad about French’s words. Back on the cold floor, looking for help.
The board then began discussing the possibility of adopting a program that would arm teachers, at which point Cooper put his head in his hands before looking at his father again.
“We should come to every single one of these things so that doesn’t happen.”
The next day Cooper brought a petition to school opposing the measure and started collecting signatures from his fellow students and teachers.
There were people within the Butler County community who felt these students should never have been disciplined given their recent experience with school gun violence. However, Cooper disagrees.
“The whole purpose of a walkout is to protest against an establishment,” he wrote on Facebook. “I do not expect the establishment to support the walkout.”
He told the Enquirer, that without punishment the walkout would have been meaningless.
Cooper’s father also claims that they now receive text messages from reporters after every school shooting requesting an interview.
“He’s always hated the attention from all of this,” his dad said. “I know that he really just wanted to pretend that day never happened.”
For a teenager and former school shooting victim to take action against gun violence while knowing it would draw unwanted attention to himself as Cooper Caffrey has done, makes him the very definition of an American hero.
Featured image via YouTube.