A School Shooting Survivor Asked: What Kind of World Is This?

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I spend a good deal of my time writing about trauma in schools and colleges; I write about how to address that trauma effectively by helping teachers/ professors and administrators create trauma responsive environments. That is why I have a forthcoming book (June 2020) from TC Press titled “Educating for Trauma.”

I want to share two stories that bring home the point that a survivor of today’s school shooting raised in this question: What Kind of World Is This? The answer: we live, sadly, in a trauma filled world and since trauma gets re-triggered (intentional use of the term), its presence is there in many students. But, for all this, we are not trained as educators to deal with trauma, to identify trauma symptomology, to shut down or lower the autonomic nervous response to disasters howsoever caused.

The Stories:

This year, I was at a trauma conference and I was speaking about how to reopen schools after a disaster (including a school shooting). I was going over a set of strategies that I demonstrated and shared with the attendees. (FYI: I am doing a similar session at this year’s conference in Atlanta in Feb. 2020; the link to the conference is: https://creatingtraumasensitiveschools.org/conference/.)

At the session, about half way in, a person stood up and almost shouted: “Where were you three years ago when I needed you at my school?” He seemed angry. He seemed sad that he had not known how to help his school deal with trauma. I responded: I wish I had been there to help but this is why we need trauma-trained educators so badly. We cannot do without them.

More recently, online, I was writing about trauma. Someone responded (in a reputable educational publication) by asking why I was so fixated by trauma and saw things thru a trauma lens and to prove to the responder that trauma was an issue of such importance. Well, hard to know where to begin. There are statistics on natural disasters. There are statistics on school shootings. There are statistics on the high ACE scores of many people. I could share the psychological impacts and educational impacts of trauma, especially on children. I could address how trauma keeps getting retriggered and once traumatized, it does not go away. It is not like a virus. It stays with you.

Instead, with today’s school shooting as to which the details are only now emerging, I can say “res ipsa.” Trauma abounds. We cannot wait any longer to attend to its impact. Today, in California, about 3000 students and their families and teachers were affected directly or indirectly by the high school shooting. And, the shooting triggers memories for many other trauma survivors, including those from other school shootings. The road ahead for those in the this California community is only just beginning.

Res Ipsa.

Written by

Author, Educator & Commentator; Former President, Southern Vermont College; Former Senior Policy Advisor, US Dept. of Education; Former Law Professor

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