Centered: The Arizona K12 Center’s Executive Director, Dr. Kathy Wiebke, offers her education insights in this monthly column. I am numb. I am scared. I am angry.Another school shooting. 17 casualties. I am numb. As I looked at my Twitter feed there was a video posted from a classroom. The teacherFeb 16, 2018
Centered: The Arizona K12 Center’s Executive Director, Dr. Kathy Wiebke, offers her education insights in this monthly column.
I am numb. I am scared. I am angry.
Another school shooting. 17 casualties. I am numb. As I looked at my Twitter feed there was a video posted from a classroom. The teacher was with her students and the SWAT Team entered the classroom. The students were instructed to put their hands in the air. One hand stood out. It shook uncontrollably. I couldn’t take my eyes off of that one hand. I cannot begin to imagine the fear that coursed through the veins of every person in that school.
I am scared. Scared at my reaction. I heard about the shooting and it didn’t even register. Another shooting. My threshold of outrage and indifference has changed dramatically. This, in itself, is alarming. It wasn’t until I heard that there were 17 casualties that I cared.
I remember Columbine. I remember watching the news and seeing pictures of students parading out of their classroom. Those images have been seared into my memory. It wasn’t until years later I learned a close friend had children who went to Columbine and were in the school that day. While her daughters came home that evening, I know the reality of that day dramatically changed their lives forever. It changed their career choices. It changed how they interact as a family. I don’t think there has been a school shooting since where the recollection of that day isn’t resurrected. They are a story of survivors, but the emotional impact has certainly taken a toll on this family.
That event changed everything. Lock down drills evolved. Every room had a sheet of paper near the window to cover it. Procedures and codes were created to respond. Reflecting back on this time in my life, while prepared, in my mind Columbine was an anomaly and these procedures would never be put to use.
In 2012, 13 years later, 20 children and six teachers were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The images of those children are burned into my memory. I think about the teachers who died protecting them. I think about the lives lost that day. I think about the parents of those 20 students and the dreams they had for their own children — dreams that will never be realized.
Our inaction as a country stirs anger within me. I am angry that as a nation we are paralyzed to bring about sensible gun legislation. I am angry that while we recognize the signs of mental illness or a kid crying out for help, we continue to slash school budgets and the resources to identify and help these kids. I am angry at parents who aren’t more proactive and more involved in the lives of their children. I am angry at our inaction.
As I watched a CNN interview one teacher summed it up best when she said, “We have drilled for this. We had a training recently. We could not have been more prepared for this situation, which is what makes it so frustrating. We have trained for this. We have trained the kids for what to do. The frustration is that we did everything that we were supposed to do. Broward County Schools has prepared us for this situation and still, we have so many casualties. It is very emotional. I feel like our government, our country has failed us and failed our kids. They did not keep us safe.”
Our schools are learning sanctuaries. They are places where students, parents, and employees should be safe and feel valued. Our classrooms are the backdrop for dreams that take shape.
What happened in Florida was not a fantasy, but a reality that I wish was only a nightmare. Teachers and education support professionals moved into their roles as protectors. After all, those were “their kids” and as the adults, they did what they could to safeguard them. While the details continue to unfold, I have no doubt that in the coming days we will hear stories of ordinary people, students and educators alike, behaving in heroic ways.
Roughly 150,000 children have been impacted by school violence since Columbine. This is a complex problem with no easy solution. Thoughts and prayers are not going to solve this one. We have guns that were built for warfare, which are available to the average citizen. America’s love affair with guns is staggering. It is going to take the collective will of us all to say, enough is enough because tonight there are 17 Floridians who are not coming home. The lives of 3,000 students and countless others changed forever. It is Feb. 14, the beginning of a new year. My thoughts and prayers are that we, as Americans, find the moral courage to say we’ve had it. We must work together to move from words to action. When a country cannot protect its children, we have failed as a nation.