Austin East student leaders speak out in aftermath of violence in East Knoxville

Austin East Magnet School has lost three students to gun violence in the past three weeks.
Published: Feb. 18, 2021 at 11:25 PM EST
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -Austin East Magnet School has lost three students to gun violence in the past three weeks. Understandably, things have been tough and uncomfortable for the student body.

Class has been virtual for the time being, but WVLT News spoke with students who say they’re ready to be back together once again to learn and grieve together.

BriAshay Moore, Kyniya Hutchinson, and Erion Lee are all involved in student government at Austin East. Those student leaders took time to speak with WVLT News and told us that right now feels “overwhelming” and like “a weight on my shoulder.”

Together they wanted to say that they love their school, and the violence surrounding the area has nothing to do with the school.

BriAshay says, “Austin East can’t control what happens after those school hours.”

Knoxville Police and Mayor Kincannon understand that as well, so KPD will now have more police presence in the streets around the school to hopefully deter and prevent future crime. But not every student is elated to see more men and women and uniforms around the Austin East area.

Erion says, “Being African American, once we see police we think instantly something horrible and bad could happen.”

Erion adds that if authorities are going to be more visible in the area, a better and more concentrated effort needs to be made to establish a good relationship between police and residents. That’s a sentiment that Chief Eve Thomas said she understands well, which is the intent of having those officers in the area. The hope that relationships and trust can be built, and both parties can work together to reduce criminal activity and keep the area safe.

While the last few weeks have been tough to process for these students, as leaders, they’re doing everything they can to stay connected with fellow classmates and checking in on them with group texts and zoom calls outside of virtual classes.

In fact, Kyniya says the student body is closer now than they were before and adds that she wishes it didn’t take the loss of life to do so.

Looking ahead, these school leaders plan to do their best to honor and remember the lives lost this year.

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