Educators who survived school shootings help districts deal with aftermath

Group of school leaders put together a collaborative guideline for districts to reference

A group of school leaders who have experienced school shootings on their campuses and have dealt with the aftermath is helping other school officials figure out what to do immediately after a shooting on campus.

San Antonio – A group of school leaders who have experienced school shootings on their campuses and have dealt with the aftermath is helping other school officials figure out what to do immediately after a shooting on campus.

In February 2004, Michael Bennett, a special education teacher in New York, was shot in the leg by a student who entered his campus with a shotgun.

“As the police officer arrived, I let him know that we had one of the gunmen. At the time, we didn’t know if there were more,” Bennett said.

What followed was just as traumatizing as what took place.

“We were inundated with local police, state police, sheriffs, FBI, ATF, helicopters. We had quite a response in 2004,” Bennett said.

He said the school’s leadership had so many questions that needed answers, and there were few resources. Twenty-one members of the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) have put together a collaborative guideline for school leaders to reference.

The Guide to Recovery handbook was unveiled Monday at the site of the Columbine High School Memorial location.

Bennett said the guideline would “let people know they’re not alone when they have to deal with something like this.”

The 16-page guide deals with issues of mental health at the time and moving forward and when to reopen campus.

NASSP members have reached out to Uvalde to help provide support. Bennett said there’s so much public education leaders are not prepared to deal with after a tragedy.

“What can you expect after an incident like this? Communities are grieving. Your faculty and staff are grieving. Your students are really struggling to get back and make sense of something that really doesn’t make any sense. So how do you do that? How do you work through the mental health piece of everyone?” Bennett said.

The perspective includes experiences from school leaders from mass shootings that have made headlines in recent years.

Bennett said he still struggles with his recovery, but helping to write the handbook has been therapeutic for him because it helps others with similar experiences.

He strongly encourages school leaders to be familiar with the handbook as it’s the first of its kind written by people who lived it. Click here to read.

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About the Authors:

Patty Santos joined the KSAT 12 News team in July 2017. She has a proven track record of reporting on hard-hitting news that affects the community.

Gavin Nesbitt is a photojournalist and video editor who joined KSAT in September 2021. He has traveled across the great state of Texas to film, conduct interviews and edit many major news stories, including the White Settlement church shooting, Hurricane Hanna, 2020 presidential campaigns, Texas border coverage and the Spurs.