PULLMAN, Washington (December 19, 2012)—There is no way to describe the shooting of school children and staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut as anything other than an unthinkable tragedy. Our hearts, prayers, and thoughts go out to the families and the community suffering such unspeakable loss.
The fact that the principal and other staff members gave their lives trying to protect the children was heroic. Past experience shows that when confronted, educators will do almost anything to protect the wellbeing and lives of children in their care. We need to acknowledge and commend the work and commitment of school teachers, administrators, and all employees in our schools.
The reality is that no matter how diligent and proactive we are, risk cannot be absolutely averted. In any case, our schools take steps regularly to be as prepared as possible for a crisis event and are diligent in efforts to prevent any crisis from occurring. I know we will take this tragedy as another reminder to review current crisis plans and preparations.
Always, and especially during this holiday season, I encourage all of us to reflect on the darker events of our times with compassion. The tragedy in Newtown and those that occurred previously are not simply school issues—they are societal issues that must be confronted. I suggest we seek to find solutions that have a basis in understanding and love rather than revenge and blaming. I recommend an opinion piece published in the New York Times by Priscilla Gilman titled Don’t Blame Autism for Newtown. It draws insightful and rational attention to some of the students we have the privilege to serve.
To my colleagues throughout Washington State and the nation: Thanks for all you do for every child in your care.
Dr. Paul Sturm is president of the Washington Association of School Administrators, a statewide professional association representing nearly 1,100 members including superintendents, central office administrators, and building principals. Dr. Sturm is also the superintendent of Pullman School District.