LITTLETON, Colo. — On Monday morning, the National Association of Secondary School Principals' (NASSP) Principal Recovery Network met at the Columbine Memorial and shared its new Guide to Recovery, a resource for school leaders in the aftermath of a school shooting.
“Since 2013, there have been at least 943 incidents of gunfire on school grounds,” said Ronn Nozoe, CEO of NASSP. “But what happens to a school community in the wake of horrific events?”
The guide is a collection of best practices based on the lived experiences of the guide’s authors, who are all former and current school leaders.
During the event, the current principal of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and former Columbine High School Principal Frank DeAngelis talked about some of their experiences that were included in the guide.
“I remember walking into that building the Saturday after… and seeing standing water and food left on the table and I saw blood-stained carpets. And that was something I was never ever prepared for,” DeAngelis said.
DeAngelis, a founder of the network, has become a source of knowledge for his colleague.
DeAngelis highlighted three key elements that he said would have helped him in 1999, following the shooting at his school.
“We were dealing with burying 13 of our family members, and then all sudden we have graduation coming up. So the guide looks at what worked for us and what did not work,” DeAngelis said. “The other thing is the remembrance. You know, what do you do?... Returning to a building. How do you do that? Because there's a lot of trauma.”
DeAngelis said the recovery network is already sharing its guide with principals who never imagined themselves among this group.
“Uvalde — they're really struggling to go back in that building,” DeAngelis said. “One of my colleagues from an elementary school has reached out and they have started dialogue on that.”
Each member of the recovery network said they hope no school leader needs their guide. But as history shows, they might.