NASSP forms “network we wish we had when shooting occurred.”
Reston, VA – The next principal who endures a school shooting can now find support in a network of colleagues who have been through the same experience. The National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) recently convened a cohort of these school leaders for the first meeting of the NASSP Principals Recovery Network (PRN), who will share their aggregated knowledge immediately with colleagues in crisis and advocate for the needs of schools both to prevent shootings and help schools recover from them.
“This is the network each of us wishes we had when the shooting occurred in our school,” said Frank DeAngelis, former principal of Columbine High School and author of the recently released book, They Call Me Mr. De: The Story of Columbine’s Heart, Resilience, and Recovery. “We’re members of an exclusive club no one ever aspires to join. We know firsthand the struggles of leading our schools through the first few hours and well beyond when a shooter opens fire. With NASSP convening us, we can strengthen one another and be a source of strength for the next principal who experiences a shooting.”
NASSP assembled the network April 2–3, 2019 at its national headquarters in Reston, VA. The initial pool of invitees consisted of principals at the time of 87 school shootings that resulted in fatality or injury since 2013. Those leaders then recommended other supportive principals who had previously experienced shootings. Attendees included (with date of incident in parentheses):
- Elizabeth Brown, principal, Forest High School, Ocala, FL (April 20, 2018)
- Jake Heibel, principal, Great Mills High School, Great Mills, MD (March 20, 2018)
- Ty Thompson, principal, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Parkland, FL (February 14, 2018)
- Patricia Greer, principal, Marshall County High School, Benton, KY (January 23, 2018)
- Warman Hall, principal, Aztec High School, Aztec, NM (December 7, 2017)
- Jeff Meisenheimer, principal, Lee’s Summit North High School, Lee’s Summit, MO (September 29, 2017)
- Greg Johnson, principal, West Liberty–Salem High School, West Liberty, OH (January 20, 2017)
- Andy McGill, assistant principal, West Liberty–Salem High School, West Liberty, OH (January 20, 2017)
- Lauren Ford, former principal, Procter R. Hug High School, Reno, NV (December 7, 2016)
- Denise Fredericks, principal, Townville Elementary School, Townville, SC (September 28, 2016)
- Kevin Lein (injured in shooting), former principal, Harrisburg High School, Harrisburg, SD (September 30, 2015)
- Stacey Ting-Senini, principal, Sparks Middle School, Sparks, NV (October 21, 2013)
- George Roberts, former principal, Perry Hall High School, Baltimore, MD (August 22, 2012)
- Andy Fetchik, former principal, Chardon High School, Chardon, OH (February 27, 2012)
- Michael Sedlak, former assistant principal, Chardon High School, Chardon, OH (February 27, 2012)
- Michael Bennett (injured in shooting), former assistant principal, Columbia High School, East Greenbush, NY (February 9, 2004)
- Frank DeAngelis, former principal, Columbine High School, Littleton, CO (April 20, 1999)
Principals discussed the challenges of restoring a learning focus after a shooting, and the fine line of commemorations that can either advance healing or reopen emotional wounds. Conversations also revolved around the need for additional mental health services for schools, both to prevent violent incidents and to help schools recover from them. Of particular note was the principals’ emphasis on the mental health needs of teachers and other adults who might be in trauma following a shooting–including the principals themselves.
“Effective leadership is absolutely essential to help a school recover from a shooting, and so the principal often feels the need to take care of everyone else,” said NASSP Executive Director JoAnn Bartoletti. “As NASSP’s new Building Ranks framework for school leadership indicates, personal wellness is a crucial factor in the schoolwide success. That wellness applies of course to students, but also to all the adults who contribute to student learning. Especially after a traumatic event, principals must see to their own well-being both for their own sake and for the sake of the school.”
In addition to coordinating outreach to principals after a school shooting, the PRN will prospectively create a series of resources on recovering from trauma. The network will also work to inform policies at all levels of government that serve to prevent school shootings and assist in recovery.
The National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) is the leading organization of and voice for principals and other school leaders across the United States. NASSP seeks to transform education through school leadership, recognizing that the fulfillment of each student’s potential relies on great leaders in every school committed to the success of each student. Reflecting its long-standing commitment to student leadership development, NASSP administers the National Honor Society, National Junior Honor Society, National Elementary Honor Society, and National Student Council.