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U.S. 'sister school' awaits news from Germany

By Thurston Hatcher

BOWLING GREEN, Kentucky (CNN) -- Four years ago, the people of Bowling Green Senior High were stunned by the killings of three students at another Kentucky school, in Paducah.

On Friday, school violence hit closer to home emotionally, if not geographically: Bowling Green Senior High has an exchange program with the Gutenberg Gymnasium School in Erfurt, Germany, where 18 people were shot to death Friday.

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"One of the teachers just paid a personal visit to me with her husband about two weeks ago. They were just here," said Ferrel Rose, who teaches a German language class at the Bowling Green school. "I want very much to know her situation, of course, but I haven't been able to get that information yet."

By early afternoon, Bowling Green's students and staff awaited word about their friends and colleagues across the Atlantic. Representatives from both schools had visited each other's campuses in recent years.

"We had some very strong friendships and relationships from our kids staying in their homes and their kids staying in our homes when they came here," Principal Fred Carter said.

Carter received a phone call Friday from a newspaper reporter in Erfurt, who asked how American schools have responded to violence.

"One of the keys is do not overreact," Carter responded. "Hopefully this is an isolated incident, and I don't think you want to turn your schools into prisons. You don't want to put bars on the windows or put metal detectors on the doors."

Bowling Green is about 150 (240 kilometers) from Paducah, where a 14-year-old entered a school and shot three girls to death in 1997. After the Paducah shootings, Bowling Green Senior High mounted cameras in classrooms and has someone monitoring the images all day. It also locks as many doors as possible to the outside and makes sure visitors sign in at the office.

"It hit home very hard," Carter said of the Paducah incident.

School officials hadn't decided yet how they would reach out to their companion school in Germany.

"We will definitely do something," Carter said. "I'm not sure what's appropriate at this time, but we'll probably be in touch with the administrators there and figure out what's the best thing to do."


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