For fifteen years, The Broad Academy has helped strengthen the abilities of school superintendents across the nation to lead and grow high-performing organizations that drive excellence and equity for all students. A little more than a year into the program, we spend time with our Fellows helping them develop their skills in communicating effectively during a crisis.
The question for us isn’t whether a superintendent will have to face and lead through unpredictable and unavoidable crises — but when. It is maddening that far too many of them will have to lead through unimaginable tragedies like yesterday’s shooting at Parkland, Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County Public Schools.
Incidents like this one are as devastating as a natural disaster, but they are far more preventable. Our unwillingness as a nation to enact and enforce sensible gun regulations, improve background checks and provide accessible, comprehensive mental health services is a sure promise that we will continue to see more and more children and adults killed by gunfire, and more and more K-12 superintendents will face days like yesterday.
We all know the drill — not just the active shooter drill, but the response to these mass shootings: Shock. Outrage. Calls for action. No action taken. Move on. Lather, rinse, repeat. We go through the motions either knowing it’s a charade or naively hoping that things will be different this time. We ask, “What will it take?” We exclaim, “Enough is enough!” And, of course, we offer an infinite number of “thoughts and prayers.”
Meanwhile, according to the Educators Demand Action campaign, 14 state legislatures have introduced bills this year to loosen regulations and allow people to carry firearms on K-12 public school campuses.
Yesterday, Broward County’s superintendent Robert Runcie demonstrated strength and resilience in the face of catastrophe. But confirming fatalities from a school shooting should not have to be part of any superintendent’s job. Just moments before the shooting occurred, Bob was at a ceremony at a different high school, honoring the district’s new Teacher of the Year. That’s what he should be doing — keeping his school system and community focused on excellent teaching and learning and doing his part to encourage and celebrate it.
We ask educators to take on a lot in service of their students and communities. Keeping children and themselves safe from gunfire should not be required. As Bob told reporters yesterday, “We have to do what we can to make sure we provide the greatest safety measures we can for our kids.”
We must make real change to the culture of guns in this country. To start, check out the information and resources from groups like Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and Everytown for Gun Safety. Call and email your representatives in Congress and your state legislature. And when candidates for elected office seek your support, demand their public commitment to take action on common-sense gun laws.
Yesterday, the Broward County community deserved to be celebrating a brilliant teacher at Monarch High School, not reeling from senseless violence at Marjory Stoneman Douglass. All communities throughout the country deserve the same.
Becca Bracy Knight is The Broad Center’s executive director.