While Perry’s character is all smiles and excitement, her own life hasn’t always been that way. When Perry was in the sixth grade, two students at a nearby middle school killed five people in one of the first of a rash of major school violence incidents. The massacre at Westside Middle School was the deadliest shooting at a U.S. middle school ever. Five were killed and 10 injured.
Perry was a student at a different Jonesboro middle school, but the incident hit home — and changed things for her and her classmates. “I remember walking to the principal’s office and seeing every classroom door open and TVs on to CNN,” says Perry, who recalls recognizing the names and being struck that someone her age could do something like that.
“It was really scary. The school district down there got really strict,” says Perry. Following the incident, new safety measures were instituted to keep students safe like mandating clear backpacks and using metal detectors. “We had new drills,” says Perry.
“It was scary because you don’t start judging your peers at that age. For about a week you were a little nervous to go to school,” says Perry. And at Christmas time, a lot of yards had five angels on them in honor of the five people killed in the incident. “You hugged your family a little tighter. You hugged your friends a little tighter,” she says.
These days, Perry and her castmates are busy with touring and occasionally getting recognized by young fans and their parents. She says it happens a lot when they are in airports — especially around the TSA checkpoint when they are together. ”We get recognized in New York City a lot too and we’ll get stopped and take a couple of pictures. And it’s funny because it’s usually the parents that see us first,” she adds.
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Photo credit: Daniel Tanner/ WENN.com
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