LFA Groups Move Forward in the Wake of the Florida School Shooting

By Joetta Sack-Min

In the aftermath of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, LFA organizations offer resources, sympathies, and calls to action

After the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida on February 14, surviving students quickly organized and called for better school safety measures and more gun control, and political debates began. Learning First Alliance members have spent recent days offering sympathies and help for educators and students who were survivors or who feared that violence could come to their schools. Numerous LFA groups have taken positions on various proposals while offering condolences to the families and educators impacted by the mass shooting.

This is a compilation of resources, statements, and commentaries on the myriad of events:

When students’ free expression evolves into an organized protest or walkout during school hours, principals and other school officials find themselves in a conflict between supporting student voice and fulfilling their custodial duty toward students. The National Association of Secondary School Principals has issued a list of considerations for principals for student walkouts and protests. NASSP Executive Director JoAnn Bartoletti released a statement after the shooting saying, in part, “We cannot tire of asserting the inanely obvious reality that all children should attend school without the fear of being shot to death. We continue to advocate for policies that identify and intervene to prevent at-risk behavior.” 

NASSP also outlined its positions on recent legislative actions and initiatives in a blog, "Advocating for School Safety."

AASA, the School Superintendents Association, assembled this set of resources and information “to support school system leaders, their staff, their community, and their students as they navigate yet another round of student deaths.” Resources include a template communications document and tips from the National Association of School Psychologists.

AASA Executive Director Dan Domenech released a statement after the shooting: "“Our hearts and prayers go out to the victims in Parkland, Fla. as we continue to push our elected officials to do what is right and necessary to stop this senseless violence affecting our children and staff.”  

The American Federation of Teachers has a resource page and is collecting donations for a fund for Stoneman Douglas High School. In a blog, “Children Need to be Valued More Than Guns,” AFT President Randi Weingarten discussed her visit to the high school. She expressed sympathy and support in this statement.

The National PTA released a statement advocating for gun violence prevention and mental health services to protect children. National PTA President Jim Accomando and Florida PTA President Cindy Gerhardt also made clear that “any act of violence at a school or involving children and youth is intolerable. Every student deserves to learn and grow in a safe environment. And no parent should fear for the safety of their child every time they leave home for school."

Stephanie Hirsh, executive director of Learning Forward, stated: "“Gun violence has no place in our schools or communities. We call on policymakers to have the difficult conversations they haven’t been willing to have so far. Take responsibility for the safety of our educators and students. There is no higher priority than doing what is right for America’s children.”

In “I'm a N.J. school teacher: Arming us is a grotesque idea. Here's a better option,” Ronen Kauffman, an elementary teacher, writes for NEA Today that arming teachers “will be a dark step backward.” NEA Today also covered student protests on February 21.

Thomas J. Gentzel, executive director of the National School Boards Association, shared his thoughts on the shooting and other issues in a column for the American School Board Journal. He wrote, “The answer is not giving every teacher a gun. It is not simply adding more armed guards, metal detectors or other security devices. Those may aid in stopping an intruder; however, they do not serve to identify persons who might become one, or to give them the help they so urgently need. It is disingenuous for elected officials to talk about the need to address mental health issues and then cut funding for counselors and other vital services in the budgets they adopt.”

The National Association of Elementary School Principals plans to continue to urge Congress to provide funding for programs that support schools in addressing mental health issues, said Executive Director Earl Franks. NAESP, a co-author of "A Framework for Safe and Successful Schools" after the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, also supports the STOP School Violence Act of 2018.

“When children go to school, they should have access to optimal conditions for learning, free from violence and terror” said Franks in a written statement. “Parents deserve to send their children to school with the confidence that they will come home unharmed.”

Lynne M. Gangone, president and executive director of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, noted that "teacher preparation programs incorporate trauma-informed instruction as part of their curricula. Yet there is no adequate education or training to prepare teachers to sacrifice their lives to protect students. Teachers who are willing to give up their life for another human being are simply heroes." She commended the "teacher heroes who rose up on that horrific day, as well as those who remain to work with their students in the aftermath of the attack." AACTE's statement on school safety notes that "to effectively address school safety, our nation must examine national and state policies on access to weapons; maintain safeguards for Americans to engage in peaceful protest, as well as support students and educators who engage in appropriate civil action; and increase teacher, school, and community resources to appropriately address students’ mental and emotional health."

The American School Counselor Association has additional resources for helping students in the aftermath of a shooting: https://www.schoolcounselor.org/school-counselors/professional-development/learn-more/shooting-resources. ASCA Assistant Director Eric Sparks recently spoke to WUSA 9 news channel about the impact of the national 480:1 school counselor-to-student ratio on school safety.

To help children cope with traumatic events, LFA also has numerous member resources collected after the 2017 Las Vegas shooting and hurricanes.

The Network for Public Education’s National Day of Action Against Gun Violence in Schools is planned for April 20, the anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting. For more information go to NPE’s website.

Updated 3/9/18

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