We belong to a club that shouldn’t exist.
We are members of Principal Recovery Network, a National Association of Secondary School Principals-sponsored group of school leaders who have experienced gun violence in our buildings. We created the network because when the nation—and our elected officials—inevitably turned their attention away from our tragedies and failed to prevent future ones, someone needed to step up to help principals and their communities through the years of recovery.
We are so tired of reliving the worst days of our lives. Time and again, the same thing happens: A shooting occurs, we ask our elected leaders to help us heal and stop future violence, and all we are left with are thoughts and prayers. After the shooting at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas, last month, we need to disrupt this cycle. We need our representatives at every level of government to do everything it takes to prevent our kids and educators from being murdered in school.
But the unfortunate truth is we have only a small window in which to act. Our members, who include principals from Columbine, Sandy Hook, and Stoneman Douglas, know this all too well. We experienced tragedies that shook the nation, yet all that was left behind were the aftershocks of death and trauma. When the news stops covering shootings, that does not mean the problem is solved.
Now, for the moment, all eyes are on Uvalde. A slew of media stories, press conferences, funerals, celebrity visits, and therapy dogs rightfully keep our attention focused on helping this Texas town and ensuring tragedies like this one never happen again.
Yet, every day the attention fades. News vans leave, funerals end, celebrities return to their jobs, and the dogs go back home. Soon, the homemade crosses and the deafening silence will be all that remain—until the next shooting happens somewhere else in the country.
We will not be silent. We will work to make sure that our collective voices reach the halls of Congress. Because the minute that we as a nation stop talking about school shootings, our representatives do the same. If you care about your students and colleagues, you cannot let this conversation fade away. We must all make our voices heard.
The reality is that the tragedy at Robb Elementary was the 27th school shooting this year. That’s a shooting every five days. And now 19 children and two teachers are among the 2,600 casualties as a result of school shootings since 1970. Six months into the year, there have already been more than 250 mass shootings in various venues across the country.
This violence extends beyond our schools, and nowhere is truly safe. Discussions on ending school shootings must never be put on the back burner until the avoidable and needless deaths stop forever.
In the network’s effort to break the cycle of stagnation, we recently begged our elected leaders to do something—anything—to prevent another horrific incident in our schools. While members of our group come from different places and backgrounds, we are all united in our demand that politicians do their jobs and find a solution to stem the violence. As we write this, there are federal bipartisan bills under consideration, and passing even one bill will save lives. Any action is better than the paralysis we’re dealing with right now.
There is a time for thoughts and prayers. And there is a time to act. That time is now. Add your voice to the calls for elected leaders to protect our students, educators, schools, and communities. If our representatives don’t respond now, it is inevitable these tragedies will happen again.
Michael Bennett was the assistant principal of Columbia High School in East Greenbush, N.Y. Currently, he is the assistant superintendent for school administration for the Schodack Central school district in New York.
Elizabeth Brown is the principal of Forest High School in Ocala, Fla.
Andy Fetchik is a former principal of Chardon High School in Chardon, Ohio. He is currently the director of human resources at the Mayfield City schools in Ohio.
Lauren Ford is a former principal of Procter R. Hug High School in Reno, Nev. She is now a lead area superintendent at Washoe County school district in Nevada.
Denise Fredericks is the principal of Townville Elementary School in Townville, S.C.
Kathleen Gombos is the principal of Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
Warman Hall was the principal of Aztec High School in Aztec, N.M. He is now the director of federal programs in the district.
Jake Heibel is the principal of Great Mills High School in Great Mills, Md.
Matthew Hicks was the assistant principal at Noblesville West Middle School in Noblesville, Ind. He is now the superintendent of Northeastern Wayne Schools in Wayne County, Ind.
Greg Johnson is the principal of West Liberty-Salem High School in West Liberty, Ohio.
Michelle Kefford is the principal of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.
Kevin Lein is a former principal of Harrisburg High School in Harrisburg, S.D. He is now the principal of Camelot Intermediate School in Iowa.
Andy McGill is the assistant principal of West Liberty-Salem High School in West Liberty, Ohio.
Jeff Meisenheimer is the principal of Lee’s Summit North High School in Lee’s Summit, Mo.
George Roberts is a former principal of Perry Hall High School in Baltimore. He is currently a community superintendent of the Baltimore County public schools in Maryland.
Michael Sedlak is a former assistant principal of Chardon High School in Chardon, Ohio. He is currently the principal of East Woods School in Ohio.
Ty Thompson is a former principal of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. He is now the assistant director of athletics and student activities for the Broward County public schools in Florida.