Education Week - May 30, 2018 - 14
By Mark Walsh
The comments that went viral and that flashed across cable
news screens in the days after a gunman killed 10 students
and staff members at Santa Fe High School in Texas mirrored
the fractured and emotional national response to the latest
eruption of school violence. They also threatened to muddy
the debate among educators and policymakers about what to
Oliver North, the new president of the National Rifle Association, blamed recent school shootings on youngsters "steeped in a
culture of violence" and who have taken the ADHD medication
Ritalin since early childhood.
Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a Republican, said "we have devalued life" through abortion, the breakup of families, and violent
video games and that authorities need to arm teachers.
Arne Duncan, who was a U.S. secretary of education under
President Barack Obama, seized on an idea tweeted by his
own communications chief-a parental boycott of schools, withholding their children until Congress strengthens the nation's
And singer-songwriter Kelly Clarkson told a televised
awards show audience that moments of silence weren't accomplishing anything in the aftermath of mass killings, "so why
don't we not do a moment of silence, why don't we do a moment
of action? ... Why don't we change what's happening?" She gave
There is no shortage of opinions, it seems, about the causes
and potential responses to school shootings such as the one at
Santa Fe High School or the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., in which 17 students and teachers were killed.
But while the explanations and ideas make good fodder for a
wave of TV news shows and memes on social media, they may
be removed from the everyday concerns of educators.
"The comments that are made in the initial 48 hours [after
the latest incident] are along the lines of 'something's got to be
done'," said Dan Kelley, the principal of Smithfield High School
in Smithfield, R.I. "In the heat of the moment, people throw out
a lot of ideas based on emotion."
A Parent Walkout?
Peter Cunningham, the former communications director for
Duncan and the founder and executive director of the online
opinion and advocacy site Education Post, said in an interview
that he was prompted to tweet his idea about a parent-led boycott of schools by what he saw as a familiar pattern after each
"The pattern here is just like everywhere else," he said. "Outrage for some period of time, followed by calls for action, followed by zero action. There are the usual attempts to steer the
conversation away from guns to mental health, school security,
and school access."
So in the hours after the Santa Fe shooting, Cunningham
tweeted, "Maybe it's time for America's 50 million school parents to simply pull their kids out of school until we have better
Duncan expanded on his own retweet of Cunningham's idea
with a May 24 op-ed in the Chicago Tribune.
"If the boycott focused on members of Congress who are in
the pocket of the gun lobby, it could be especially effective, even
if Congress refuses to act," the former secretary wrote. "They
would face the voters at the polls in November and hopefully
pay a political price. The [boycott] idea is complicated and inconvenient. But the current reality is horrific."
Of course, the debate over responses to school shootings
is wrapped up in competing views about gun control measures. So it is no surprise that not everyone would embrace the
"No one would say emotional responses are bad, but emotions should not be dictating public policy," said Amy Swearer,
a legal policy analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation
Swearer had participated in a panel discussion on responses
to school violence at the Education Writers Association's national seminar in Los Angeles just two days before the Santa
Fe shooting. On May 22, she published an essay on Heritage's
14 | EDUCATION WEEK | May 30, 2018 | www.edweek.org
Common Sense Improvements at School
While pundits and analysts opine on various ideas for addressing school shootings, on-the-ground educators see part of
the debate as out of their sphere of influence.
Kelley, the Rhode Island principal who is currently the
board president of the National Association of Secondary
School Principals, said that administrators in his state
want nothing to do with the idea of arming teachers and
others in schools, as President Donald Trump and others
But he has realized that educators in states such as Texas
and Wyoming are much more likely to embrace guns. "It's part
of their culture," Kelley said.
The idea of limiting the entry points at a school sounds reasonable on one level, he said, but "nothing is going to stop high
school kids from propping doors open" for various reasons.
Educators have to focus on building relationships with students and learning as much about them as they can, Kelley said.
"We can't solve it all at our level," he said.
Joseph V. Erardi Jr., who became superintendent of the Newtown, Conn., school district two years after the 2012 mass shooting that killed 26 children and adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School, agreed that some of the issues debated on television
and social media after school shootings are far removed from
what educators should concentrate on.
"You have to believe that your [safety] plan is never done,"
said Erardi, who retired last summer. "The only time you are in
a bad space is when you get comfortable."
Erardi lectures around the country and stresses things such
as making sure classroom doors can be locked from the inside
and that windows have shades or blinds to limit a perpetrator's sightlines. The exteriors of school buildings should have
numbers for each classroom to aid first responders, he added.
And superintendents and other administrators need to maintain
good relations with the local police department.
Many of these suggestions are low cost and common sense, but
"they haven't been done everywhere," he said.
Erardi said that anyone who offers ideas about preventing
school shootings after such incidents is doing so "with a terrific
heart, and I won't cast stones at those trying to help."
But he added, "I just hope they become part of a larger voice
moving the country in the same direction." n
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 12
bears dedicated to Christian "Riley" Garcia, who
was 15. Garcia reportedly was shot while holding
shut the door to the art room.
Many people wore dark green t-shirts with the
words "Texas Tough" on a map of the state. Small
circles of mourners prayed, sometimes with chaplains who'd come to provide support.
"It just breaks my heart," said Sarah Castañeda,
a 2nd grade teacher at a private Christian school
in nearby Alief.
"We just need to look into the lives of these young
people," she said. "I think too many times parents
are ignoring the signs, the depression, and the isolation, and chalk it up to, 'They are teens. It's normal. They'll outgrow it.' "
To Castañeda, whose school has only one entrance that requires every visitor to report
to the principal's office, the suggestion from
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick that schools need to reduce
the number of entrances and exits is a smart one,
but it's not enough.
"But by no means do I think we are immune.
... I would never ever say that a private Christian
school is immune," she said. "It can happen anywhere, to anybody."
Autumn Helm, a cafeteria worker who was working at Santa Fe's junior high school when the shooting happened, saw the panic of parents who came
to retrieve their children and the fear in the faces
and voices of students who hadn't yet learned the
fate of siblings and friends.
Standing near the memorial last week, Helm
said she was worried about her children's safety
and was now thinking about home-schooling them
"It's not safe," she said. "I should not have to
worry about sending my kids to school. While I go
to work to support them, I should not be worried
about whether my kid is going to be OK."
Santa Fe students are scheduled to return to
school May 29, with only a few days left before the
school year ends. Some say it's too soon to go back;
the school year should just end early. But Rodriguez, who is graduating, said ending the year early
would prolong the healing process. Even as her
friends say that their school and community will
never be the same, Rodriguez said she doesn't want
the tragedy to be their last high school memory.
Even before the shooting, the school year had
been a difficult one. Hurricane Harvey flooded
Santa Fe in September and a false alarm in late
February sent the school into a lengthy lockdown
in fear of an active shooter.
"We prepared the whole year for tragedies like
this happening," she said. "We did our best to prevent them." n
Steve Gonzales/Houston Chronicle via AP
In Wake of Shooting
website aiming to dispel "false narratives" in the wake of that
tragedy. Among them, in her view, is that "common sense" gun
control would effectively solve the problem.
"Not a single commonly proposed gun control law would have
been more effective than existing laws at preventing a teenager-already too young to buy or own firearms-from stealing his father's legally owned 'non-assault weapons,' taking
them into a gun-free zone, and murdering 10 innocent people,"
In an interview, she somewhat embraced the Texas lieutenant
governor's idea of limiting entry points to schools.
"We control security at sporting events," she said. "Why aren't
we treating our schools the same way we treat concerts and
Santa Fe High School freshman Jai Gillard writes messages on each of the 10 crosses in front of the school in memory
of those killed in the May 18 shooting at the school. Gillard knew all of those who died.
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - May 30, 2018
Education Week - May 30, 2018
News in Brief
Number of Librarians Plummets in Schools, Data Find
A Growing Vision Problem Is Hidden in Plain Sight
Another School in Anguish
The 10 Lives Lost>
Santa Fe Shooting Sparks Debate on School Design
Heated Comments Highlight Divisions in Wake of School Shooting
Survey of K-3 Teachers Captures Affinity With Pre-K Colleagues
Schools See New Dilemma in Teens Who Cyberbully Themselves
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: Gamers Are the New School Athletes: The Rise of Esports
Trump Panel Slammed on Pace Of School Safety Work
DeVos Deflects Criticism At Capitol Hill Hearing
State Restrictions on School Choice Earn Ed. Sec.’s Ire
Jeannine Diddle Uzzi: Math Is a Language. Let’s Teach It That Way
Natalia Kucirkova: Is Silicon Valley Standardizing Learning?
Carolyn R. Hodges & Olga M. Welch: The Face of Leadership
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Michael J. Petrilli: A Fair and Effective Approach to School Discipline
Education Week - May 30, 2018 - Education Week - May 30, 2018
Education Week - May 30, 2018 - 2
Education Week - May 30, 2018 - Contents
Education Week - May 30, 2018 - News in Brief
Education Week - May 30, 2018 - Report Roundup
Education Week - May 30, 2018 - Number of Librarians Plummets in Schools, Data Find
Education Week - May 30, 2018 - 7
Education Week - May 30, 2018 - A Growing Vision Problem Is Hidden in Plain Sight
Education Week - May 30, 2018 - 9
Education Week - May 30, 2018 - Another School in Anguish
Education Week - May 30, 2018 - The 10 Lives Lost>
Education Week - May 30, 2018 - 12
Education Week - May 30, 2018 - Santa Fe Shooting Sparks Debate on School Design
Education Week - May 30, 2018 - Heated Comments Highlight Divisions in Wake of School Shooting
Education Week - May 30, 2018 - Survey of K-3 Teachers Captures Affinity With Pre-K Colleagues
Education Week - May 30, 2018 - 16
Education Week - May 30, 2018 - 17
Education Week - May 30, 2018 - Schools See New Dilemma in Teens Who Cyberbully Themselves
Education Week - May 30, 2018 - DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: Gamers Are the New School Athletes: The Rise of Esports
Education Week - May 30, 2018 - DeVos Deflects Criticism At Capitol Hill Hearing
Education Week - May 30, 2018 - State Restrictions on School Choice Earn Ed. Sec.’s Ire
Education Week - May 30, 2018 - Natalia Kucirkova: Is Silicon Valley Standardizing Learning?
Education Week - May 30, 2018 - Carolyn R. Hodges & Olga M. Welch: The Face of Leadership
Education Week - May 30, 2018 - Letters
Education Week - May 30, 2018 - 25
Education Week - May 30, 2018 - TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Education Week - May 30, 2018 - 27
Education Week - May 30, 2018 - Michael J. Petrilli: A Fair and Effective Approach to School Discipline
Education Week - May 30, 2018 - CW1
Education Week - May 30, 2018 - CW2
Education Week - May 30, 2018 - CW3
Education Week - May 30, 2018 - CW4