COLUMBUS, Ga. – It was the last piece of news students expected to hear their first day back at school after Labor Day Weekend. Northside High School students must now deal not only with the death of their custodian, but the school is also remembering the tragic death of a sophomore student.
As News 3 reported, Justin Johanson was hit by a car and killed early Sunday morning. Muscogee County Schools Communications Director Valerie Fuller says professional counselors, social workers and psychologists all accepted students and faculty with open arms Tuesday. Students also honored Johanson, 15, Tuesday morning with a memorial at the school’s flag pole. They etched their words in chalk, lining their message of love with candles, cards filled with thoughtful memories, flowers, and stuffed animals.
Fuller says news spread quickly about Johanson and custodian Joseph Davis’s death. But even still, not everyone anticipated the emotional start to the first full week of September.
“As much as things are shared over social media sometimes, even in special reports or newspapers or articles, not everyone knows,” Fuller said. “So there are people that are not aware of when there’s a loss, whether it’s a student or employee. So it’s really important that we’re there, on the scene, and we’re helping them get through this crisis.”
Fuller adds that a school loss in any capacity — whether it’s a bus driver like Roy Newman’s, a coach like David Pollard, or student like Natalie Pegram — is a loss for the school district and the community. Johanson represents the eighth death in the in the school district since October 2015. Pegram died in a car crash last fall. Sophomore Caleb Short, who attended Shaw High School, was one of the victims in the Upatoi triple homicide back in January 2016. Coach Pollard was killed, after a man reportedly drove through an intersection on Buena Vista Rd. 8-year-old Richard Farrell and 7-year-old John Farrell died in a crash in August. Roy Newman was driving a school bus to Mathews Elementary August 22 when the bus ran off the road, and a crash killed him and injured seven students. Along with Johanson’s death Sunday, Davis’s, 47, murder account for the rest of the deaths in the school district.