After Sandy Hook, What Next? By Carolyn Lunsford Mears for Education Week
Firestorm Expert Council Member Carolyn Lunsford Mears, Ph.D., wrote the following essay for Education Week in light of the tragic shootings in Newtown, CT. I have been fortunate to speak with Dr, Mears at length regarding this and like-tragedies, and believe she brings a unique, empathetic yet practical point-of-view, helpful to all touched by this immensely appalling event.
I have read Carolyn’s anthology, Reclaiming School in the Aftermath of Trauma: Advice Based on Experience, that provides real-life stories of traumatic events, and encourage any invested in this subject to do so as well. Each chapter describes approaches that educators, administrators, students, and staff found helpful as they returned their school or university to the business of teaching and learning.
After the Tragedy, What Next?
By Carolyn Lunsford Mears
Once again, we see yellow police tape surrounding a school. We see sobbing parents clutching their children in relief, and imagine the others closeted with grief counselors telling them that their children won’t be coming home.
Tears on every face. And, over and over, the same questions are asked: How could this happen, and why?
To watch such a scene on television is heartbreaking. To experience it firsthand … spirit-shattering.
Almost 14 years ago, my husband and I were among just such a crowd of parents, searching desperately for our child’s name among the lists of survivors of the Columbine High School killings. Three hours after the ordeal began, I glanced toward the entrance of the school where hundreds of parents awaited news of their children, and in the distance I saw a familiar Green Bay Packers hat slowly moving through the crowd. My son was alive. Stunned, but physically uninjured.
Today, “Columbine” is often equated with the day so many lives were lost, April 20. It’s a shorthand way of encapsulating all the pain into a simple phrase. But I want people to know that the tragedy didn’t just happen on that day in 1999. It merely began that day. As those in Newtown, Conn., will learn, the repercussions of any school shooting, terrorist attack, or natural disaster do not begin and end on a single day.
Still, even as the tragedy in Connecticut continues to unfold, there is a need to look forward. What I’d like to share with you is advice from those who have been in similar tragedies on how to put life, and learning, back together, as well as thoughts on how schools can prepare for events they hope they never actually encounter.
As I experienced the sorrow and disruption in my community after the Columbine shootings, I saw people struggle to put their lives back in order. Educators—those amazing teachers, administrators, and other staff members at the high school—went back to work, fighting their own despair, while being there for the kids. Comment on and read the full essay here
Firestorm Is the Nation’s Leading Expert In School Violence Prevention, Planning, Training
Firestorm Solutions, LLC, is a national leader in crisis management consulting and crisis management response. Firestorm was on scene at Virginia Tech, and is currently engaged to help keep hundreds of schools and tens of thousands of students safer.
Firestorm’s School Workplace Violence Prevention Team includes Firestorm principals who have significant experience developing emergency response, crisis management, security and workplace violence plans for K-12 (public and private) as well as higher education institutions throughout the country. They have responded to: school shootings, sex abuse, suicides, bullying, sexual harassment, cyber-bullying, hazing, employee-on-employee and student-on-student violence, domestic violence spilling over into the school setting, and child pornography.
Firestorm principals and Expert Council members include some of the most knowledgeable individuals in the country on the topic of school and workplace violence, forensic and clinical psychology, threat assessment, security, safety and trauma. Their experience is hands-on, and the lessons-learned that are shared are based on real life experiences handled by these experts. They include team members who led or participated in the response at Aurora, Virginia Tech, Columbine, Platte Canyon, Youth With A Mission, Deer Creek, Beslan. They all stand ready to assist at a moment’s notice. Firestorm can be reached at: 770-643-1114
Firestorm Expert Council Member Carolyn L. Mears is the author of the award-winning study Experiences of Columbine Parents: Finding a Way to Tomorrow and Interviewing for Education and Social Science Research: The Gateway Approach, holds a research position, serves on the Graduate School of Social Work Trauma Certificate Board, and is dissertation advisor and adjunct faculty at the Morgridge College of Education, University of Denver.