I recently had the opportunity to listen to a speech given by the principal of Columbine High School, Frank DeAngelis. As he recounted his experience of the massacre that occurred at his school in 1999, the audience sat in somber silence.
On April 20, Columbine High School was attacked by two seniors who attended the school. They had planned to kill students, staff, and emergency workers using bombs and guns. Their bombs failed to detonate, so the pair used multiple guns and ammunition. They murdered 12 students, one teacher and injured 21 others, before committing suicide.
After explaining the details of the massacre, Frank shared facts about the gunmen and common misconceptions of school shooters. He said the two seniors were outstanding students, with good grades and an active social life. They were in AP classes, accepted to college and even went to prom the weekend before the shooting. They were not prone to violence or behavioral problems at school and they were well liked.
Frank DeAngelis explained, although the parents were not at fault, they both never entered their sons’ bedrooms. The parents told police, their sons would not allow them to enter their rooms. The parents were even hesitant to go into their bedrooms after the shooting.
*Note to parents: be present in your children’s lives. Go into their rooms. Talk with them in their space. Ask them questions about their passions, hopes, dreams and fears.
Next, Frank spoke about dealing with trauma. He said, life does not go back to “normal” after a traumatic event. One of the most important ways to heal from trauma, Frank explained, is to find a support system. After the shooting, he (and the entire staff) continued to work at the school, to provide stability to the students and community. As principal, he spent countless hours encouraging staff, students and families to seek counseling. Counseling for emotional trauma, Frank explained, was like going to the dentist for a cavity. There are times when we need help from a professional.
*Note to parents: Don’t be afraid to seek support. Parenting is hard. Being a kid can be hard. I have been to counseling. I have taken my children to counseling. There is not shame in needing and seeking help.
Frank DeAngelis ended his speech, by talking about the immense positive impact educators can have on their students. He encouraged teachers to “choose a job you love and are passionate about, because students can tell if their teacher doesn’t enjoy their job.”
*Note to parents: Do you enjoy parenting? How do you show your kids that you love your “job”?
Today, I plan to show my children how much I love them by jumping on the trampoline together.