A Call for a National Response to Mass Shootings
By Steven D. Herrington, PhD
The recent tragedy in Uvalde, Texas, in which 19 fourth graders and two teachers were slain in their classroom by an 18-year-old gunman, shook school communities in Mendocino and Lake Counties and across the United States to their core. This senseless act of violence is the deadliest shooting at a grade school since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut.
We simply must do more to protect our children and the adults who teach them from senseless acts of violence, which have become more common in the United States than anywhere else in the world. May’s violence in Uvalde followed racist mass shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Laguna Beach.
In the aftermath of such a tragedy, children will inevitably have fears and questions that they look to adults to address. Parents, teachers, and school administrators may find these resources helpful as they seek to discuss these incidents in an age-appropriate way and ensure their students are safe:
Talking to Children About Violence: Tips for Parents and Teachers, from the National Association of School Psychologists: tinyurl.com/ynh66dxn
Talking with Children About Tragic Events, from the Dougy Center: tinyurl.com/3pb2zdrf
Supporting Your Child in Stressful Times, flyer from Sonoma County Office of Education (English/Spanish): tinyurl.com/r3tnnpew
Those who work in school or other settings with children may wish to consult the following links:
Responding to School Violence: Tips for Administrators, from the National Association of School Psychologists: tinyurl.com/2p8vu9va
Help for the Helpers: Caring for Yourself When Assisting Others, from the Institute for Disaster Mental Health: tinyurl.com/5n7mexb5
Please know that our school districts and our partners in law enforcement are constantly evaluating the measures in place to keep students and staff safe. But vigilance and commitment at the local level is no substitute for strong federal action and changes in our nation’s laws that will ensure tragedies like those in Uvalde, Newtown, Parkland, and Columbine, among many others, stop happening.
My office strongly recommends the above resources and is committed to doing everything we can to protect students. But the gun violence afflicting our schools and other public spaces requires more than reassuring words and local action.
The mass shooting in Uvalde was one of 27 shootings to take place on a school campus this year, according to Education Week. It is one of 119 to have happened since the publication began tracking on-campus shootings in 2018.
We owe it to our students and teachers to provide a safe and secure environment for learning without turning our schools into fortresses. When parents or guardians send their children to our campuses, they should know they will return safely home at the end of the day. Americans should be able to go to school, work, to the grocery store, the movies, worship, or to other public spaces in much the same way most of the rest of the world does: without having to fear for their safety.
If you wish to advocate at the national or state level for efforts to end these tragedies, I urge you to contact your members of Congress and the California Legislature, as well as President Joe Biden and Governor Gavin Newsom.
How many more lives must be lost before we as a nation take action to address these senseless acts of gun violence?
My heart goes out to the families and school employees whose lives have been upended by these latest chapters in our long national story of gun violence.
Steven D. Herrington, PhD, is the Sonoma County Superintendent of Schools.