The school shootings in a quiet Connecticut town have shaken us all up. Parents, children, teachers, and school administrators everywhere are asking “Why?” President Obama became teary eyed as he spoke about it, no doubt thinking of his own children as all we parents are right now. Inevitably, this becomes a political football for the gun control people as well as the people at the NRA. Each side will stake its claim, and I am certainly not writing about any of that. My purpose here is to react as a parent and as a school administrator to what has kept me awake the last two nights.
Let me say straightaway that there is no making sense of this because there is no making sense of it. The very nature of such an act of brutality is beyond comprehension for rational people. We go about our lives doing everything in our power to sustain life, to keep our children safe, and to take care of those near and dear to us. We also, if we are in such a position, sometimes must take care of those other than our family members.
As a school administrator, I am always thinking about school security (besides the hundreds of other things that need to be done). When I heard that Dawn Hochsprung, principal of Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, was shot trying to stop the gunman, I understood immediately the place from which Ms. Hochsprung got her motivation. She reacted just as the firefighters who went upstairs in the World Trade Center on 9/11 while everyone else was coming down. This goes beyond the call of duty because it is a truly sacred mission that pushes you forward. This is the necessary and compelling nature of teachers and their roles with the children in their charge, one that is known as in loco parentis. This basically means that we educators are “in place of the parents” during that school day, and you can get no better example of that than these brave individuals who sacrificed their lives for their students.