Members of NASSP’s Principal Recovery Network (PRN), a group of current and former school leaders who have experienced gun violence in their buildings, met with federal officials and members of Congress in Washington, D.C. last week to discuss the pressing need to reduce the alarming number of school shootings.
In a packed two days of meetings, the PRN members met with staff from the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency (which oversees a number of initiatives related to school safety); top officials at the Department of Education, including Secretary Miguel Cardona; members of the White House Domestic Policy Council, including President Biden’s chief education policy advisor; and various elected officials during lobbying visits to Capitol Hill.
Since it was founded in 2019, the PRN has assisted more than 50 school leaders in the immediate aftermath of a crisis. Last August, the group distilled its collective wisdom about the most useful advice following a tragedy in its Guide to Recovery. During the Washington meetings, the group was repeatedly thanked by federal officials for putting together the guide because few other resources are available to help deal with recovery after an incident. Kacy Shahid, one of the newest PRN members and the principal of Central Visual and Performing Arts High School in St. Louis, MO, said she used the guide constantly after a shooting at her school last fall. “The guide gave me assurance and some steps to follow,” she said. “The group provides me what I’ve been missing.”
“Our voice is very important, and people see that,” said Greg Johnson, the principal of West Liberty-Salem High School in West Liberty, OH, and one of the network’s co-facilitators. “This guide has taken our influence to another level. There’s a reason why people want to sit with us and hear us.”
Among those who took the time to listen were Secretary Cardona and Deputy Secretary of Education Cindy Marten. “I appreciate you being here,” Cardona said. “We need to hear from you and have that influence what we do here. You’re turning your experience into something that will help others.” Marten said that her “heart is with our principals who wake up every day and figure out how to give our kids a fighting chance with a quality education.”
Throughout the meetings and lobbying visits, the PRN members shared their own experiences and advocated for more resources and stronger policies related to enhancing school safety and preventing violence. And they welcomed federal officials’ offers to continue working together to come up with solutions.
“I can’t wait for the day when we have no reason to call principals after another tragedy,” said Elizabeth Brown, the other PRN co-facilitator who is the former principal of Forest High School and current principal of Ocali Charter High School, both in Ocala, FL. “But we’ll keep working for as long as it takes. I know we truly make a difference.”
Learn more about the PRN.