Thirteen people, 12 students and a teacher, died that day. 23 others were injured.
More than 20 years later, DeAngelis joined a national network of current and former principals who have experienced gun violence in their schools.
“We can all go through the same event, but how we handle it – we handle it differently,” DeAngelis told CNN.
The Principal Recovery Network gathered at the Columbine Memorial in Lyttelton on August 22nd to share a collection of best practices. The group also released a “recovery guide” for school officials to refer to immediately after the tragedy.
This manual explains how to secure support, reopen schools, meet student and staff needs, hold anniversaries, and listen to students.
“It’s devastating that this guide has to exist,” Brown told CNN.
DeAngelis adds that the guide is easy to read and a deliberate choice by the Principal Recovery Network.
This guide also includes testimonials from members of the Principal Recovery Network with varying experiences related to school shootings.
Ty Thompson, former principal of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, said in testimony that the school reopened after the Parkland, Fla., shooting that killed 17 and injured 17. I mentioned that
“In the immediate aftermath of our tragedy, the school district focused on reopening schools,” Thompson wrote in the guide. “The first thing we discussed with the district was that they didn’t want the students back in school until after all the victims had been buried. The second was how to make sure staff and students knew. They had to make a decision, they had to prove that the government would stand by them, not just words.”
Another Guide to Recovery author includes Michelle Kefford, current principal of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. She started school in July 2019, just over a year after the Valentine’s Day 2018 shoot.
“They reached out to me in the early days when I was a principal here at Stoneman Douglas, so their first call was really to support me,” Kefford said. told CNN. “That’s how the network works. If there was a tragedy in one of our schools across the country, we would all come together as a group and one of us would reach out to that principal and say, We will provide support and let them know, we are there for them.”
Some of the network’s leaders dealt with the aftermath of a major mass shooting, while others were forced to deal with the repercussions of a smaller shooting.
Elizabeth Brown is the former principal of Forrest High School in Ocala, Florida.
“There was an active shooter. A former student opened fire in one of the campus hallways during school opening hours on April 20, 2019,” Brown told CNN. “He ended the attack by shooting through the classroom door, severely injuring a student before the gun jammed.”
Brown says no one died in that shooting, but the scale of the incident doesn’t matter, it’s always traumatic.
“Whether there were mass casualties, injuries, or no injuries at all, it’s a traumatic factor for anyone who breaks into a school campus and opens fire,” Brown said. are all very general themes and don’t necessarily depend on the scale of the event, and that’s kind of what I’ve tried to land on for much of the guide.”
Only 47% of school leaders described their school as ‘very safe’. Of her 1,000 students surveyed from her 8th grade through her 12th grade, only 53% said their school was “very” or “extremely” safe. .
With that in mind, the Principal Recovery Network is working to get a recovery guide into the hands of administrators nationwide, but for now, the guide is intended to be easily accessible to principals and educators. will continue to be available online to
“There’s no doubt we’ve actually talked about distributing a hard copy guide to every school district that might get it,” Brown told CNN. , all school districts, all school foundations should see this as a proactive tool, not a passive tool.”
As for DeAngelis, he remained in Columbine for 15 years after the shooting. He says it’s not for himself, it’s for his students. He continues to advocate for school safety, and he says he will never stop.
“I’m going to keep doing it until I can’t,” D’Angelis said. “I refuse to be helpless. I refuse to be hopeless. I refuse to give in.”