DANVERS, Mass. — As few details emerged about the killing of a Massachusetts teacher allegedly by one of her students, classmates struggled to make sense of their loss — and understand why it happened.
Classes were expected to resume Friday at Danvers High School, two days after Philip Chism, 14, was charged with murder in the death of Colleen Ritzer, a popular 24-year-old math teacher.
The school remained closed on Thursday, but grief counselors met with some students.
Police and school officials told about 800 parents at a meeting Thursday night there would be extra safety measures to reassure returning students, including locked side doors, and more police and counselors on hand.
Rabih Chaghouri, whose daughter is a freshman, said he’s confident the school is safe. “This could happen in any neighborhood, any street, anywhere. You never know what goes on in people’s heads.”
A student who sat two seats away from Chism in Ritzer’s Algebra I class on the final class of the school day Tuesday said Chism was drawing in a notebook rather than taking notes and Ritzer noticed it.
“She came over and said, ‘I didn’t know you draw,’ and he said, ‘yes,’ then later on, she said, ‘Can you stay after with me?’ ” Rania Rhaddaoui said. “Obviously, he stayed after because when I was leaving, he was still at his desk.”
Rhaddaoui said Ritzer had scheduled a test for Friday, but she was unsure why exactly Ritzer asked Chism to stay after school.
Ritzer never returned home that day. Blood in a second-floor bathroom helped lead investigators to her body, which was dumped in the woods behind the school in a close-knit community about 20 miles north of Boston.
Chism was picked up by police in the early morning hours Wednesday, walking along Route 1 in neighboring Topsfield. His attorney declined to comment outside court Wednesday and did not immediately return a call seeking comment Thursday.
Authorities offered no clues Thursday on Chism’s alleged motive. They also would not say how Ritzer was killed.