20 Years Later: Revisiting the Buell Elementary School shooting

MT. MORRIS TOWNSHIP (WJRT) (02/29/2020) - 2020 marks 20 years since 6-year-old Kayla Rolland was shot and killed at Buell Elementary School.

She was killed in her first grade classroom at the Mt. Morris Township school when her classmate pulled out a gun and shot her.

He was never charged with the murder due to his age.

Throughout the past 20 years, Kayla's father, Ricky Rolland, has thought about that horrific day often. Even though it's been twenty years, talking about it still makes him very angry. He says the government doesn't care, so it's on parents to protect their kids.

He fought tears back while recalling that horrific memory.

"My pager is going off 9-1-1. It's my mom's phone number up north. I'm thinking, 'Well, my dad must've had another heart attack,' and when I called, it wasn't my dad. My ma said, 'Your daughter you had with Veronica, Kayla, she got shot in school.'"

Rolland's four-year-old daughter knows her father is missing a piece of him. She has seen photos of Kayla, and she misses her too.

"Where's Kayla?" He asks her.
"Umm...in heaven," his daughter replies.
"She knows. Sometimes, she tells me, 'I want my sister.' She's in heaven," Rolland tells ABC12.

A few days following that gruesome day, the President at the time, Bill Clinton, called Rolland asking what could be done. 20 years later, he still thinks there's not enough government support.

"Gun violence is an issue. What are you going to do? Our government ain't going to control it. People are going to get guns regardless," Rolland said.

Rolland acknowledges that some mid-Michigan schools are now taking steps to stop this from happening with law enforcement officers on site, metal detectors, and secured entry.

Still, he says parents must do their research.

"Watch what kind of schools you're sending them too. If you got a school that's got violence in it, well you're going to have violence. Look at schools, and do your review on the schools, and make sure they go to a good school that doesn't let that happen," Rolland said.

Rolland says throughout every summer, he still visits his daughter's grave.He cleans the headstone and just last year, he installed a light so her presence shines, even in the darkness.

In 2002, Buell Elementary, the scene of the shooting, was closed due in part to shrinking enrollment and budget issues.

The school was damaged by fire three years later. It was demolished in April of 2008 after a $2.7 million bond issue was passed by voters.

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