News that police believe Yashawnee Vaughn was killed March 19, has hit Portland teens hard.
Emotions are raging on social networking websites, as teens express everything from disbelief and confusion to raw pain and anger. Accustomed to posting without censoring themselves, comments are sometimes veering into dangerous territory.
Vaughn was a student at Helensview High School, a small alternative school serving around 250-270 students. Principal Kris Persson said she felt awed by the compassion and caring her students are displaying, while facing a grief quite unlike any they have known.
"They are amazing," Persson said Friday. "We have set up a special remembrance room and they have decorated it with pictures and flowers and candles. They are showing enormous caring and concern for one another, and for the staff here." The Skanner News Video: Memorial
Teens At Many Schools Are Affected
The long wait to find out what had happened to the missing teen, and the arrest of 16-year-old suspect, Parrish Bennette, has left teens struggling to understand. How could their friend have disappeared? How did she die? And what possibly could have happened that involves a boy many of them also know? Police are searching on Rocky Butte, but have released no further information.
"This is hard because of a lot of the students knew both Yashawnee and Parrish," Persson said. "And it's been very, very difficult, because it has gone on for a long time – since Yashawnee went missing – and because of the darkness surrounding what has happened. It scares them, and they have a deep sense of grief."
At Helensview, Persson and her staff are working to support students with counseling, remembrances and by offering a safe place to grieve and to talk. But the tragedy is touching students across the city and in particular at several Eastside schools where students knew either Yashawnee or Bennette.
Facebook and Twitter are buzzing as students pour out their hearts. Yashawnee had friends at several other neighborhood schools -- Madison, Jefferson and Parkrose to name a few. One tweet, from Lauren Hanks reads: RIP Yashawnee <3 we all miss you and love you. Many other tweets and posts offer up love to Yashawnee.
As Persson notes, Bennette too was known to students at Helensview. But he also has connections at Franklin, Grant, Madison, David Douglas and Parkrose high schools. He had been a student at Mt. Tabor Middle School, where he was in the Japanese Immersion Program.
Facebook Posts Show Teens Are Hurting
Since the news broke, dozens of those students have been posting their disbelief, caring, shock and outrage to Bennette's Facebook page, in heartwrenching teen shorthand. The Skanner News has decided not to identify these teens by name.
"Man when I first heard this I called your phone 5 times for you to answer & tell me it's not true," wrote one. "But Why??...WTF. I know you, we been through hella f****** sh**… your not the tipe I'm shocked!!!..."
Another writes: "Bestfriend. I can't believe it. I hope it's not true…But you neva no wat too Belive at a Time like this. Wow G** D*** Every Thing Needa Stop."
A third says: "D*** I really don't wannna believe this sh**. Your such a good person. I know you wouldn't do no sh** like this on purpose. I'm sitting here like wtf Your never going to get out…"
Some express their loyalty to Bennette, saying things like "keep your head up yung G… no matter what happens" and "I love you lil cuddy and when dis craziness is over u know where you can come," or "No matter what, you always my lil bro & I keep you in my prayers…." One girl says: "Parrish ths is so crazy.. people accusing you, your face all over the news! I don't believe it… your way too good of a person for that and your heart is way bigger then this. I jst wanna cry…I love you." She ends her post with a heart.
Sad and Mad: Posts Veer Into Threats
Devastated by Yashawnee's death, other teens are furious with Bennette, and with posts they disagree with. "Aint enough words in this world…The only thing in mind is 'I HOPE YOU GET A DEATH SENTENCE! & ROTT IN HELL ! B****," one teen writes. Another says: "the b**** a** n**** need to burn in h***, they need to sit his a** in the electric chair…"
A few teens are getting into vicious arguments with one another or posting direct threats to Bennette, such as: F*** U Parrish. Die N***** ROTT BECKAUSE I SWEAR IF YHU GET OUT IMMA KILL U" and "…you better pray they keep you there for life cause you will never make it and that' a promise…"
Rumors are circulating about Bennette, his family, the crime and the arrest. Parents may find their students are deeply affected, even if they didn't know either of the teens.
Kiki Tolbert-Griffin has set up a special Facebook page named: Yashawnee Vaughn RIP We want justice.
"It's never a goodbye but a see you later," reads one of her posts. "People die but their spirits live on and you have to believe that one day you're going to see them again... RIP shawnee you are going to be missed...Until we meet again."
Like Persson, Tolbert-Griffin is trying to create a safe outlet to express the intense emotions gripping high school students. One of her posts read: "Kiki Tolbert-Griffin would strongly like to encourage everyone to allow the authorities to do their thing don't take matters in their own hands. We already lost Shawnee and we don't need anyone else lost. We just want justice and closure for her mother and her family."
Adults are invited to join a search party gathering at 9 am Saturday morning in Powell Park, at 26th and SE Powell. And a candlelight vigil is planned for 7 pm Saturday also at Powell Park.
PHOTOS: Bennette's Facebook photos and the Memorial for Yashawnee Vaughn outside the Northeast police precinct.
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