Principals Affected By School Shootings Release Guide To Recovery For The Future

Principals surviving past school shootings have laid out groundwork for future incidents in a guide to recovery.

By Kari Apted | Published

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guide to recovery

As the old saying goes, the best advice comes from those who have already been through a difficult situation. On August 22, nearly two dozen school leaders released a publication that no one hoped would become necessary: The NASSP Principal Recover Network Guide to Recovery. This 16-page guide was created for school leaders by principals who have experienced a campus shooting.   

Leaders who’ve already endured this type of domestic terrorism had already formed a support network. The Principal Recovery Network (PRN) is a group of current and former school leaders formed by the National Association of Secondary School Principals. PRN members provide support immediately after gun violence tragedies and continue to assist through the recovery process. Creating a guide to recovery was the group’s logical next step.

On April 20, 1999, in Littleton, Colorado, two teens went on a killing spree at Columbine High School, killing 13 people and wounding over 20 more. Frank DeAngelis, Columbine High School principal at the time and recovery guide contributor describes the PRN as “a club in which no one wants to be a member.” As he told The74, “Unfortunately, that membership continues to grow. But we can’t give up hope.”

Campus shooting sprees remain statistically rare, and the data on the actual number can be misleading. But in a report issued in June by the National Center for Education Statistics, 2022 has had more school shootings than ever before. With the Uvalde, Texas massacre still raw in our recent memories, the authors of the guide to recovery hope it will be a valuable resource for school leaders.

The PRN Guide to Recovery has been in the works for years, but the Uvalde shooting gave the guide’s contributors a new sense of urgency for its release. The contributors realize there is no one step-by-step recovery process that will work for everyone. However, PRN is hopeful that the guide’s collective wisdom will make other principals’ recoveries more manageable.

The guide to recovery begins by emphasizing, “You are not alone, and there is no established timeline for recovery.” Among the first steps it suggests is to hold a full faculty meeting, preferably off-site, to help staff understand what happened and to provide guidance on the recovery process. Providing access to trauma-informed mental health professionals is also of primary importance, for both staff and students. Therapy dogs are also suggested as a welcome resource following a violent event.

guide to recovery

After the initial aftermath, the guide to recovery has tips for when and how to reopen the school. It suggests starting with an open house or reunification day to allow staff and students a gentle transition back to the building. Tips are provided on holding annual remembrances or commemorations, and how to keep students’ needs front and center.

Practical advice abounds in the guide to recovery as well, including what to do with the inevitable deluge of flowers, stuffed animals, and other gifts from the community. School principals often have a take-charge type of personality, forgetting to take care of their own mental health while helping others. The guide emphasizes their need to seek individual support and includes group members’ contact numbers with an invitation to reach out any time of the day or night. Current school principals can obtain a copy of the guide by contacting PRN.