This year, our school administrators are reading Redeeming Administration by Dr. Ann Garrido, a former podcast guest. In the last chapter on reflection, she challenges administrators to be thoughtfully responsive, not immediately reactive. In the immediate aftermath of Parkland, I resisted the urge to throw up some links and react to the tragedy. This is my attempt to respond.
If you read the piece in Crux entitled “Catholic schools, spared from mass school shootings, remain vigilant” you might have left thinking that Catholic schools are exceptional and exempt from the threat of school shootings. I couldn’t disagree more. The fact that there has never been a mass shooting in a Catholic school is not cause for celebration. Rather we should join in solidarity with all educators to prevent this from every happening again. The last thing we need is more division. As Yahoo! News points out, this is the New Normal in US Schools.
It’s a story that is becoming disturbingly familiar and ritualized–the disaffected, loner teen usually connected to the school in some form returns to the school and takes lives. This is a complicated challenge with no easy solutions. But that doesn’t mean we should give up. We can study why, we can try to make our schools physically and emotionally safer, and we can enact common sense gun control legislation. Below are articles which helped me understand each of these issues better.
Understanding the Phenomenon
It’s important to recognize how school shootings have changed our schools. I encourage everyone to spend 20 minutes listening to “The Daily” podcast from March 5th from the NY Times. The reporter interviews Parkland survivors. When a student says, “I always want my phone nearby so I can call my parents if there is a school shooting,” it reveals the impact. Students are thinking about school shootings and it is affecting their lives. The podcast is also a reminder of how students can shift between the seemingly trivial (e.g. dressing nicely on Valentine’s Day) and the tragic (references to blood and funerals). Here’s another Glimpse of the victims of Parkland.
Jessica Lahey (author of Gift of Failure and former podcast guest) wrote a moving piece in the Washington Post “As a Teacher, I Always Worry About My Students. School Shootings Bring on new Nightmares” The impact of school shootings on teachers is immeasurable. Rebecca Berlin Field echoes many of the same sentiments in “A Letter from a Furious Teacher” and you can read the haunting piece on shooting survivor/coach Frank Hall from Chardon in Sports Illustrated. I would also recommend reading the first person, harrowing account in the Washington Post “I would have been a school shooter if I could have gotten a gun”
It’s worth thinking about how the procedures and processes to make our schools safer. How many students have died from school fires in the past 10 years? How many from school shootings? Parkland might prove to be a watershed moment in much the same way the 1958 Our Lady of Angels School fire in Chicago—which cost 90 students their lives in Chicago—led to significant changes in fire safety in schools. I discuss this with Sr. Angie Shaughnessy on the podcast episode scheduled to drop Monday, March 12th. Here’s a brief collection:
- “How Can We Stop School Shootings? Secret Service has Some Ideas” from CBS News
- From Market Watch, “10 Steps Schools, Parents and Communities Can Take (Without New Gun Laws) to Prevent More School Shootings”
- org examined the issue in “How Can We Stop School Violence?”
- The Violence Prevention Initiative’s “Preventing School Shootings”
- CNN opinion piece “7 Ways to Prevent School Shootings”
- RealClearPolitics offered “School Shooting Solutions”
- NPR offers an examination and analysis in “Is There Any Way For Schools to Prevent Shootings?”
It’s worth considering the impact that emotional safeguards might play in our school. After all, it seems our most pressing threat is disaffected students, not intruders. Here is a collection of insightful articles about emotional safety:
- Great article on the purpose, function, and result of Restorative Justice in Catholic Schools. Jennifer Gonzalez of “Cult of Pedagogy” fame, offers an Overview of Restorative Justice
- A Chicago deacon makes the case that “Young People Can Change the Culture of Violence” courtesy of US Catholic
- Lisa Nielsen (aka “The Innovative Educator”) lists “11 Ways to Increase School Safety Right Now”
- “How to Talk to Kids About Terrible Things” from Mind/Shift is a great resource for parents and teachers; the NY Times also offers “Resources for Talking and Teaching about the School Shooting in Florida”
Yes, I’m waging into politics here. But the reason is simple. A crazed lunatic with a knife can kill many people. But that same crazed lunatic can kill more with a gun. And even more with an assault rifle. Isn’t there some way we can limit access? Do people really need assault weapons? Please don’t tell me it’s a God-given right. God didn’t write our Constitution (or our Bill of Rights), the document which counted African-Americans as 3/5th persons and didn’t grant women the right to vote. So we need to advocate for change.
Gun Control is a Pro-Life Issue, says America Magazine and did you know that “Dick’s Sporting Goods’ Gun Policy Change Followed Sisters Talks” courtesy of the Global Sisters Report. This National Catholic Reporter article gave the pulse of the current bishops in “Cardinal Cupich Calls for Action on Gun Legislation” Nice summary piece in the New Yorker’s March issue on “The state of the gun control debate after Parkland” and finally a Great blog post by Seattle Prep President Kent Hickey on how legal challenges will slow down gun violence.
How will you respond? Take some time to learn more and please, do something.