Education Week - February 28, 2018 - 12
A Florida City Forever Changed
The scene at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and the surrounding area
after the shootings shifted from chaos and panic to grief, anger, and calls for
swift and aggressive action to prevent other school attacks. By Evie Blad
l A SWAT team at the door
English teacher Holly Van Tassel-Schuster
wheeled a 36-inch television in front of the
classroom door at Marjory Stoneman Douglas
High School as the building rushed into a
lockdown-planning to push it onto the gunman
if he tried to enter.
Most of her students hid in a darkened closet
trying to remain silent as they traded text
messages with friends on other parts of the
Two students insisted on waiting in the room
with Van Tassel-Schuster, holding every pair
of scissors and sharp object they could gather
as they waited out the attack. The class didn't
know if they would make it out of the building
that day until a SWAT team member came into
In the week that followed, students' backpacks
sat where they left them as the building
remained cordoned off with police tape.
Returning would be difficult, said Van TasselSchuster, an alumna of Stoneman Douglas High
School who's taught English there for 12 years.
"People don't seem to understand," she said.
"Some of the things we saw and experienced,
if you weren't there, you wouldn't understand
it. A lot of us are even having a hard time even
talking to our loved ones because they can't."
l 17 illuminated angels
At a vigil the day after the shooting, hundreds
of members of the Parkland community packed
into the space in front of an amphitheater in a
city park, straining to hear the prayers of rabbis
and ministers over the sound of news helicopters
that flew overhead to document the scene.
The din of helicopters and sirens had quickly
grown familiar to those who survived the attack.
Some said they imagined they were hearing
them when they weren't actually there.
On the stage sat 17 illuminated angels that
a local church had used more than five years
earlier in a memorial to the victims of the
mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary
School in Newtown, Conn., where 26 people
were killed. They were a sobering visual
symbol of how mass shootings can quickly fade
from public attention.
Many of the students and teachers gathered
that night were seeing each other for the first
time since the shootings, cutting through crowds
to embrace one another in long hugs, not saying
There's an intimacy among survivors that
even their closest family members can't
understand, they said.
The crowd later broke into chants of "No more
People, some of them strangers, wedged notes to the
victims in between the piles of flowers.
"I'm sorry," one said. "I'm an adult and I failed you.
We all did. I promise to do better and fight harder for
the friends and family you left behind."
In front of the crosses, students huddled in
groups, praying together or just sitting in silence
as they processed their trauma. With their school
closed for the week, they needed a place to be with
others who understood their experience, they said.
Some cried under the shade of trees, where
organizers had hung neon paper signs warning
national news crews filming in the park to stay back.
Every day, mourners added another layer of candles,
roses, and photos to piles surrounding the crosses at
the edge of the amphitheater stage.
Sheriff's deputies monitored the scene from the edge
of the park. They left the candles burning all day in
the bright Florida sunlight and into the night.
l Too young to buy beer
On Feb. 14, Broward County Superintendent
Robert Runcie had just finished presenting a new
Toyota Camry to the district's teacher of the year
when he saw the series of urgent text messages,
informing him that there had been a shooting at
Stoneman Douglas High School. Big school districts
are accustomed to a few false alarms, but this one
Less than 24 hours later, Runcie, who keeps a
relatively low profile on the national education
stage, was surrounded by the swarms of national
and international media that had descended on
Parkland. Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel
had called a press conference with local and state
leaders under an overpass by the school. So many
news crews reported to the scene that the space for
microphones on the speaker's podium had run out.
Runcie had seen students' bodies on the floor of
the school, he said, and some bodies remained in the
building as deputies investigated.
Surrounded by state leaders who'd spoken against
attempts to pass more restrictive gun laws in the
past-Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam
Bondi, both Republicans-Runcie issued a call to
change Florida's gun laws.
Stoneman Douglas students were already gathering
nearby, ready to give angry interviews that would
spread quickly on the internet.
Many had called school board members and school
leaders, frustrated that the suspected gunman was old
enough to buy an AR-15 in Florida, but too young to
buy a beer.
"Now is the time for this country to have a real
conversation about sensible gun control," Runcie said.
"Our students are asking for this conversation."
l Blood drives, rallies, and outreach
South Florida radio DJs broke in between pop songs
last week to announce locations for blood drives, just
one of the immediate effects of the shooting in this city
of 30,000 residents.
Sheriff's cars were parked outside many nearby
schools in an effort to provide reassurance to anxious
Roads that lead to gated communities were blocked
off by police cars. Sheriff's deputies had closed off
streets leading up to the school, limiting access to
what had become a massive crime scene.
Outside of a strip mall Friday, a small group of
about ten women gathered, holding signs that said
things like "Kids not Guns" and "Honk if You Want
Dozens of cars honked as they poured through the
intersection. Some rolled down their windows to hand
the protesters boxes of food and bottles of water.
At their feet, a pile of goodwill was growing.
They planned to stay there for hours.
Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP
l "I failed you. We all did."
An impromptu memorial grew in a public
park following the attack, with wooden crosses
scattered throughout a field to represent victims.
In response to pledges of "thoughts and
prayers" from politicians, students also put signs
in front of the memorial that said "policy and
change" and "make the future a safer place."
12 | EDUCATION WEEK | February 28, 2018 | www.edweek.org
Students are evacuated by police from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in
Parkland, Fla., Feb. 14, after a shooter opened fire on the campus.
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - February 28, 2018
Education Week - February 28, 2018
News in Brief
Computer Science for All: Can Schools Make It Happen?
Pressure to Graduate Failing Students Is Felt Nationwide
U.K. Curriculum Import Becoming Increasingly Popular
Missouri Tackles Challenge of Dyslexia Screening, Services
Lost Sense of School As a Safe Place
Grief and Rage Drive Students To Demand Changes to Gun Laws
A Florida City Forever Changed
Lockdown Drills Prompt Fear, Stress After Parkland
A Long Journey Ahead Seen For Survivors of Shooting
On Social Media, Teens Witness, Grieve, Organize
Legal Issues Loom for District In Shooting’s Wake
One State’s Dive Into K-12 Aid Figures
States Confront ESSA Mandate on Spending Transparency
Several Ed. Dept. Offices Target of Reorganization
Trump Seeks Ed. Dept. Budget Cuts
The Editors: What Should Betsy DeVos Prioritize?
Margaret Spellings: Higher Education
Marilyn Anderson Rhames: Teacher Quality
Karla Phillips: Personalization
Maddie Fennell: Leadership by Example
Shaun M. Dougherty: Career and Tech Ed
Mike Tenbusch : The ‘Have Nots’
Rafiq R. Kalam Id-Din II: Racial-Equity Agenda
Erin McGrath: Lack of Choice
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Jerrod Wheeler: Impact Aid Is a Lifeline for Military-Connected Kids
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Education Week - February 28, 2018
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - 2
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - 3
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Report Roundup
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - 5
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Computer Science for All: Can Schools Make It Happen?
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Pressure to Graduate Failing Students Is Felt Nationwide
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - U.K. Curriculum Import Becoming Increasingly Popular
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Missouri Tackles Challenge of Dyslexia Screening, Services
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Lost Sense of School As a Safe Place
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Grief and Rage Drive Students To Demand Changes to Gun Laws
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - A Florida City Forever Changed
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - 13
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Lockdown Drills Prompt Fear, Stress After Parkland
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - A Long Journey Ahead Seen For Survivors of Shooting
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Legal Issues Loom for District In Shooting’s Wake
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - 17
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - States Confront ESSA Mandate on Spending Transparency
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Several Ed. Dept. Offices Target of Reorganization
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Trump Seeks Ed. Dept. Budget Cuts
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - 21
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Maddie Fennell: Leadership by Example
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Erin McGrath: Lack of Choice
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Letters
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - 25
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - 27
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Jerrod Wheeler: Impact Aid Is a Lifeline for Military-Connected Kids
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - CW1
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - CW2
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - CW3
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - CW4