When I first became aware of what happened at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, I forced it to the periphery of my attention. A guidance counselor at my school sent me a text. She knew that, as a school principal, I should be aware. I was driving home from school when I got the text. I’d met my wife near her school with flowers for Valentine’s Day. At home I didn’t watch the news or follow the events on social media.
The fact is, since the school shooting in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School, when a 20-year-old shot and killed 20 children between six and seven years old, as well as six adult staff members with a semi-automatic rifle , I have greeted news of mass shootings with frustration and cynicism.
When Sandy Hook happened, I was certain that something would change. Six and seven year olds! If as a nation we were not willing to do something to address gun violence in our schools following the deaths of six and seven year-olds, I told myself, nothing would ever change. How could we not act!?
But we didn’t.
And more mass shootings occurred… many more school shootings.
Frustration and cynicism.
Then, as often happens, I was inspired by one of my middle school colleagues, Dennis Schug, who is an amazing middle principal and a good friend.
In a group of middle level principals with whom I am connected via Voxer Dennis related how he responded to the news out of Parkland. That evening, he reached out to his staff and asked them to be present in the hallways and at the classroom doors and even the doors to the building to greet students as they came to school, to welcome them and make them feel safe and loved. That’s leadership and that’s caring right there.
I thought to myself, “Shame on me.” I didn’t do anything like Dennis did. I let my frustration and cynicism get in the way of my responsibilities as a leader, my responsibilities to my students to help them deal with the harsh realities of our world.
I read this quote from Dr. Martin Luther King on Twitter:
We all make mistakes. Mine was allowing myself to lose hope. I’d allowed my frustration with our government, with our nation, to push hope out of my mind and out of my heart. We can be frustrated but we cannot allow ourselves to succumb to despair. I’m not going to let this happen again. I’m going to stand for and with my kids against gun violence.
I’m going to always stand with my students.
I won’t lose hope.