Wilfredo Lee/AP/Shutterstock Debra Hixon
A longtime educator whose husband was among the 17 people murdered in the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, will become the newest member of the nine-person board that oversees that school.
Debra "Debbi" Hixon won a seat on the Broward County School Board on Tuesday in a two-candidate runoff, after an August primary in which she was the leading vote-getter but still failed to win more than 50 percent as required, according to the Sun-Sentinel and the Associated Press.
She becomes the second board member who lost someone to the tragedy. In 2018, voters elected former teacher and athletics coach Lori Alhadeff to the board after her 14-year-old daughter, Alyssa, was killed in the shooting.
Hixon's husband, Chris, 49, worked as the school's athletic director and wrestling coach when gunfire erupted on campus on Feb. 14, 2018.
As he tried to save students who were fleeing from the bullets, the father and Navy veteran was struck down. He died the next day at the hospital. Fourteen students and two other staff members were also killed.
GoFundMe Chris Hixon
“I am pissed off he did that because he left us, but knowing my husband, that’s just who he was," Hixon told PEOPLE two days after the shooting. "I knew he would be right there in the middle of what was going on as soon as I heard the shooting was happening. That was just who he was.”
Both Hixon and Alhadeff have turned their losses into activism.
Alhadeff is president of the national non-profit organization Make Our Schools Safe, focused on protecting students and teachers at school. Hixon is president of the Chris Hixon Athletic Scholarship, dedicated to the memory of her husband.
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In endorsing Hixon's run for office, the Sun-Sentinel lauded her "impressive educational resume built over 31 years as a teacher in the school system," but also noted her personal connection to the shooting.
"That tragedy will affect school board discussions and policy for years to come and Hixon’s perspective would be invaluable," said the endorsement.
The accused shooter, former student Nikolas Cruz, 21, is awaiting trial on 17 counts of first-degree murder and 17 counts of attempted murder and faces the death penalty if convicted.
According to reports, his attorneys have said he would plead guilty is offered a sentence of life in prison, but prosecutors have rejected that offer.