Opinion
School Climate & Safety Opinion

‘I Want to Help': A Teacher and Columbine Survivor Speaks Out

By Katie Micek Lyles — December 18, 2012 3 min read

To Whom It May Concern:

My name is Katie Coleen Micek Lyles and I want to be part of the solution to end school violence. I feel I am qualified to be part of this solution because I offer the insight of a teacher, a survivor of school violence, and a person with knowledge of school policy and reform.

Sunday night, I listened to President Obama’s message to the nation as he spoke in Newtown, Conn. He expressed so much of how I feel. I believe we are failing our kids. We are not doing enough. If unspeakable violence continues to occur at schools and we have the audacity to say we are doing enough, then shame on us. I wept in the arms of my husband last night, watching this speech. I wept for those who have died. I wept for those who survived, for those who lost their loved ones, and for all of those who lost their innocence. I wept for the Sandy Hook school community as they begin the endless journey of recovery that shakes even the deepest faiths. I wept out of fear and hopelessness for our nation. I wept for those who believe that this is still a matter of “chance and circumstance” and those that say that this is acceptable—because it has never directly affected them.

And then I had a moment of clarity that made me weep even harder. I feel called on right now more then I have ever before. I realize that my life has led me to this moment and that I must take action to be part of the solution. President Obama said he wanted to bring together counselors, experts, and educators in the next few weeks to work on making schools a safer place to learn. I know that I must be part of this team.

At age 16, my innocence was shattered when two gunmen murdered many and injured countless others at my school. Columbine High School, like any school, promised to be a safe and secure place of learning. And that promise was broken on April 20, 1999. Now, almost 14 years later, things have changed to keep students safe, but not to the point where tragedy is prevented. On Dec. 14, 2012, unspeakable horror was brought against children at another school. This tragedy has scraped off the scabs of healing and has exposed my heart, along with the nation’s. I believe we are at a crucial moment in the history of our schools. We are at crossroads where we can make a distinct choice to enact drastic and sweeping changes about how we keep our kids safe, or we can wait and hope that our school will not be next.

As a teacher of eight years, I do not feel safe in my own school. If we cannot create a safe environment for our children to learn in, how can we even begin to meet their needs? I believe I cannot in good conscience sit by and let others figure this out. I must take action out of respect for the students at my own school, out of respect for my families’ children, and out of respect for the nation’s children. I have declined to speak publicly about school violence to protect myself for so many years. I have been blessed to be surrounded by so many who “check in” with me whenever something tragic happens with schools and mass shootings. I am so tired of hugs and tears, and looks of pity and sympathy. I am so tired of grief counselors being “on call.” I am so tired of hearing debates about why the person of violence did what he did, rather than focusing on the victims. I am so tired of people thinking inside the box, thinking that the same actions will produce different results.

Because of this, I want to help. I want to be part of the solution rather than complaining and offering ideas to my small circle of friends who offer ideas, too, but it is all in theory, and not put into action. I want our children to be kept as safe as money in a bank or diamonds in a jewelry store. Surely our future is much more important than these material items … but when looking at the differences in security measures between banks and schools, it does not appear so.

Frank DeAngelis, the principal at Columbine, was recently interviewed on NPR, and he said that Sandy Hook is unfortunately part of an exclusive club that no one wants to be a part of: those who are affected by school violence. I, too, am a member of this club, and though my world includes many others who are like me, we are still (fortunately) a rarity in the nation as a whole. Because of this, I feel like those of us who are affected by school violence need to stand up and let our voices be heard. We offer authentic firsthand experience that cannot be recounted by “experts” in the field, or statisticians digesting data. I want to be part of the solution to end this war against our children’s learning and innocence.

Thank you for your time and your partnership to protect our nation’s future.

—Katie Lyles

Related Tags:

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
Interactive Learning Best Practices: Creative Ways Interactive Displays Engage Students
Students and teachers alike struggle in our newly hybrid world where learning takes place partly on-site and partly online. Focus, engagement, and motivation have become big concerns in this transition. In this webinar, we will
Content provided by Samsung
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Classroom Technology Webinar
Educator-Driven EdTech Design: Help Shape the Future of Classroom Technology
Join us for a collaborative workshop where you will get a live demo of GoGuardian Teacher, including seamless new integrations with Google Classroom, and participate in an interactive design exercise building a feature based on
Content provided by GoGuardian
School & District Management Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table With Education Week: What Did We Learn About Schooling Models This Year?
After a year of living with the pandemic, what schooling models might we turn to as we look ahead to improve the student learning experience? Could year-round schooling be one of them? What about online

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School Climate & Safety How Biden's New Actions on Guns Could Affect Students and Schools
President Joe Biden announced steps to prevent gun violence through executive action and a push for state and federal legislation.
5 min read
High school students rally at the Capitol in Washington on Feb. 21 in support of those affected at the Parkland High School shooting in Florida.
High school students rally at the U.S. Capitol in February 2018, three days after a former student shot and killed 17 people at a high school in Parkland, Fla.<br/>
J. Scott Applewhite/AP
School Climate & Safety What the Research Says Teens Are Driving COVID-19 Surges. Can Schools Counteract That?
Teenagers and young adults are now driving COVID-19 cases in some states, and experts say schools may be critical in preventing outbreaks.
4 min read
BRIC ARCHIVE
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
School Climate & Safety Opinion Empowering Teachers and Parents to Speak Up on School Safety
Rick Hess shares practical suggestions from Max Eden on how to ensure school discipline reforms are indeed keeping students and staff safe.
3 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
School Climate & Safety Audio Driving the School Bus, Waiting for a Vaccine
A veteran bus driver holds out hope he won't get COVID-19 while awaiting his first vaccination.
3 min read
Eric Griffith, 55, poses for a portrait in front of a school bus in Jacksonville, Fla. on Thursday, March 18, 2021. Griffith, who has been a school bus driver for 20 years, delivered meals and educational materials during the first couple months of the coronavirus pandemic when schools shifted to remote learning.
Eric Griffith has been a bus driver for Duval County schools in Jacksonville, Fla., for 20 years. He's been driving students all year and hopes to get his coronavirus vaccine soon.
Charlotte Kesl for Education Week