Thursday, January 6, 2011
Yesterday a local teenager walked into school after having been suspended and shot his Principal and Vice Principal. He later took his own life. The Principal remains in stable but critical condition. The Vice Principal passed away later that night.
This happened at a high school I would have attended, a high school friends and family members of mine have attended in the past. I am deeply saddened for all families involved, including that of the young man who felt that he had to do this for whatever reason.
In the fall and winter of 2006, I was a young paraprofessional for one of the public school districts in my area. I worked in the guidance office of my old high school. It had been a regular day just before Christmas break when one young man had come into my office in an outburst early in the morning before school started. It resulted in several of the counselors asking him to leave. I remember one counselor saying as he left "he is off his rocker”. As the day progressed stranger things had happened. One girl was rushed into my bosses office with an administrator, the door quickly shut behind them. At around noon during one of the lunch periods the school went under a full lock down. This was not a drill.
Myself and the other counselors quickly cleared the bathrooms in our hallway, bringing students who were in them into our office and locking the door. There students sat nervously together wanting to know what was going on and to turn on the TV. The counselor whose office was right behind my desk made a secret phone call to her husband to let him know what was going on. My boss took a moment to talk to us in one of the closed counselor's offices. There were 9 of us in a room about the size of a small walk-in-closet. One student had shot himself in the leg while in class. He had left the building and the police were searching the building for the gun. Until it was cleared we would stay under lockdown. We were to say nothing to the students, we were not to answer the phone or allow the students to use theirs or to turn on the television. We were to keep the door locked. The student was the same one who had been in outburst earlier that morning.
The counselors and I decided to make the half dozen students that were in our office as comfortable as possible. We played Christmas music loudly on the CD player I kept on my desk and we all pulled out whatever candy, cookies and sweets we kept in our desks. I always had a stash full of candy for my student aids and several of the counselors had candy or Christmas cookies to share as well.
The student who had been taken into my boss's office earlier was allowed out after having calmed down. She had been witness to the student who had shot himself. She came dangerously close several times to telling the other students what had happened. The Principal as well as several administrators were in and out of our office checking in on things and updating us on what was going on. As the regular school day neared a close an announcement came out over the intercom on how students would be released a classroom at a time.
The student in question had carried a handgun in his coat pocket. He was messing around in class when the gun went off. He had forgotten to turn the safety on. At first students and the teacher thought it was a firecracker going off. But later realized it was a gun.
On that note I would like to pass on this list of things parents and other family members should do in case they find themselves worried about a loved one in a similar situation;
What parents should do in case of a school shooting.
Stay near the primary means of contact your student will use to get a hold of you.
Go to the place the school has designated for parents to wait at.
Send your child back to school the first day classes resume. Unless your child witnessed the event or is personally involved or strongly connected to those involved, do not let their fears or yours be an excuse for not returning back to a regular schedule.
Talk to your child about their fears and concerns and make out a plan in case something like this happens before it happens.
Go to the school. You will not be allowed to pick your child up or to go near the school. You are not helping yourself by going to the school but you would be blocking traffic and making more work for police officials or rescue crews trying to get to the school.
Call the school. Part of lockdown procedures is that no phone calls are made to or from the building. While staff cannot monitor all student activity on personal cell phones the staff will not answer any incoming calls.
Feed the fire.
If your student requests for you to tell them what is going on, it is better to tell them nothing until they are safely out of the school and you can discuss it with them in a safe environment face to face.
Inform the press of any gossip or information your student may be telling you. This adds confusion and chaos to an already confusing and chaotic event.
Call or text your student if the shooter is still believed to be in the building. It’s understandable that you want to know that they are alright but you do not want to risk possibly leading the shooter to your child.