How To Respond To School Shootings: Have Faith, Not Fear

by Faith & Life, Family, God & Mystery of Evil, Pro-Life

“To our departed brothers and sisters… give kind admittance into your kingdom.  There we hope to enjoy forever the fullness of your glory, when you will wipe away every tear from our eyes.

~ paraphrased from Eucharistic Prayer III, Roman Missal, 3rd Edition English Translation, 2011.

There were two days left in the school year.  

When the attack occurred at Robb Elementary, the students, teachers and staff likely, and rightly, were probably thinking of nothing else.  Travel teams, camps, sleepovers, family road trips, and excitement over what teacher they would have next year.  What began in seconds took hours to end; summers, for the people of Uvalde, will never be the same.  And for those who lost their daughters and sons, not even the driest heat of a West Texas drought will be able thaw their numb and frozen hearts.

Right now we hurt.  We mourn.  And we question.  We ask how someone can commit such a heinous offense.  We ask how it couldn’t have been stopped sooner.  We ask how some survived, but others, only inches away, did not.  We ask why God allowed this to happen.  These questions, all of them, are real.  

As a security professional, when I visit a school or a church I tell clients I am there to accomplish two basic things: to teach, and to learn.  While morbid, as a professional, I learn from the events of Uvalde, Parkland, Sandy Hook, Chardon, Virginia Tech and Columbine.  Sadly, most frequently, what I learn is not what worked, but rather, what didn’t.

The investigation into the events at Robb Elementary School is only in its earliest days.  Much has been reported, bantered about and assumed, but very little is known definitively.  It would be irresponsible to speculate as to specifics, but there are key take aways from the incident that should be considered as you examine your school security plans for the coming year.

“There have been too many school shootings, too much killing of the innocent. Our Catholic faith calls us to pray for those who have died and to bind the wounds of others, and we join our prayers along with the community in Uvalde and Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller. As we do so, each of us also needs to search our souls for ways that we can do more to understand this epidemic of evil and violence and implore our elected officials to help us take action.”

Chieko Noguchi | USCCB

What’s Need To Examine Your Catholic School Security Plan

  • Recommit to reviewing the crisis plans you have in place for your schools.  Many children survived this event because of the training that they received.  For help in crafting a plan, oftentimes it is best to partner with a security consultant who will provide honest feedback on programs already in place and will make suggestions on best practices that can serve as building blocks for a more comprehensive program.  This plan needs to be holistic, and address planning, preparation, response, and post-incident recovery.  As Catholics, we must incorporate a faith-based component into each of these steps as well.
  • Ask how are you partnering with and including law enforcement, fire departments, emergency medical services and other first responders into your school’s plans.   And examine who is drafting the plan.  It is irresponsible for school administrators to blindly accept something prepared for them by a public official simply because of the office they hold or the uniform they wear.  In reality, most officers may train on these types of incidents for 8 hours once every couple of years.  Plans must be prepared with input from these public safety professionals, but also with the people that know your school the best – the administrators, faculty, and yes, even those more mature students, that walk the halls each day.  
  • Once in place, these plans must be tested in full scale, real time, stress enhanced environments.  It is not enough to have put a plan on paper, or to discuss it with “key stakeholders,” when every person has a role to play in an emergency.
  • Get Out!  The mass-casualty active shooter incidents that continue to plague our schools are committed by what we call “lone wolf” attackers.  If you are not in the same area of the building as the gunman, run away.  My firm instructs schools to Run, Hide and Fight as opposed to immediately sheltering in place.  This response has been developed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the US Secret Service and the US Department of Education.  It saves lives.

Sacred Heart Church is only 1.1 miles from Robb Elementary, and starting  May 31st and continuing through June 16th, Fr. Eduardo Morales, will celebrate 13 funeral liturgies for 14 of the victims of this attack.  We pray for the people lost.  We pray for this holy priest who could never have anticipated having to minister in this way.  These prayers should help us find comfort in our faith.  It is a faith that urges us to “be not afraid,” and challenges us to “be watchful, be alert.”  It is a faith in a God who suffers with us, and who promises us eternity in a place of perfection.  But, for now, we must accept that no one will be able to answer the question “why?” If we knew that answer, it is likely that our faith would be unnecessary.

May perpetual light shine upon these many innocent souls.  And may the warmth of that light be a comfort to those who remain; together let us pray that it burns radiant enough to eventually thaw the frozen numbness of today.

For more help establishing a security plan that incorporates Catholic teaching and values, visit Crossed Keys Consulting. Crossed Keys helps schools and churches find and implement security, loss prevention and risk management practices.  In turn this allows them to remain accessible environments that welcome everyone home.

Image:Photo by Feliphe Schiarolli on Unsplash

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