The Principal Recovery Network, a group of current and former principals who led schools through the aftermath of shootings, on Monday released a guide to help other principals should they face gun violence in their schools.
"It should be read before a tragedy. It's not meant to be picked up after a crisis occurs," said Michelle Kefford, principal of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, during a panel at the Columbine Memorial in Littleton, Colorado, hosted by the National Association of Secondary School Principals.
The 16-page guide is divided into five areas of focus for school leaders: securing support and responding to offers of assistance, reopening the school, attending to the ongoing needs of students and staff, holding commemorations and annual remembrances, and listening to student voice.
"While it's tragic that this guide exists in the first place, it is necessary," said Ronn Nozoe, CEO of NASSP.
In the 2021 calendar yea, schools saw 249 incidents of active and non-active shooters, as gun violence spiked following the reopening of school buildings, according to the Center for Homeland Defense and Security. In 2022, schools have endured 153 such incidents so far.
A report released last week by Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun control advocacy and research organization, shows school gunfire incidents nearly quadrupled in the 2021-22 school year from the average number since 2013. That report, which looked at school year rather than calendar year statistics, showed 193 incidents on school grounds this past school year, compared with an average of 49 incidents in the previous school years back to 2013, according to the report.
Shooter incidents by year
"The looming threat of violence in our schools is not new and it's gone on for far too long," said U.S. Deputy Education Secretary Cindy Marten on Monday during the panel.
The Uvalde school massacre in May renewed attention on the issue and triggered passage of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which will provide schools with funds to expand mental health support and school safety efforts.
The legislation also includes funding for crisis intervention and establishes red flag laws to allow teachers, parents and others to alert courts that students are exhibiting violent tendencies and lead to temporary removal of firearms, Marten said.
The guide, while conceived prior to the Uvalde shooting, was released as a new school year begins amid calls for heightened security in the wake of that tragedy.
It could provide support for principals leading through recovery after other emergencies as well, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, said Frank DeAngelis during the panel. DeAngelis, a Principal Recovery Network founding member, was principal of Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, at the time of the 1999 shooting there.
"Many of the things that we had to deal with after the pandemic resonated with me," DeAngelis said, including social-emotional learning, virtual education, making teachers feel safe upon return and holding ceremonies like graduation. "Everyone's gone through this pandemic and I think there's information in there that can help all of us deal with that."