The top two recent horrific and perpetual news stories that have me thinking are the Sandusky case and the Batman Returns movie theater shooting. How does this relate to principal preparedness, one might ask.
As a former principal and current instructor in a principal prep program, I try to think about how being prepared for scandels and tragedies is important for school leaders, although any who’ve been through these extreme circumstances will tell you that there is no real preparation.
I think that the lessons from the Sandusky case are clear for ALL educational institutions, whether they be K-12 or higher ed: create a culture where horrific and stupid actions of co-workers are unacceptable, REPORTED, and THOROUGHLY investigated. Unfortunately, every profession seems to have a few folks who prey on children, and although as school leaders we would like to believe those folks haven’t made it into our schools, they have. The only real preparedness (since each of these situations is so different) a school leader can have is the knowledge that no place, no school is immune to unfortunate circumstances like these.
The same knowledge is necessary for dealing with a school shooter tragedy. I shared last week with my administrative supervision class that I used to spend time visualizing (and worrying, of course, since that is one of my ‘main skills’) how I would react if I or the school where I served as a leader came under seige of an attack from outside or within. Having students and staff regularly and seriously conduct drills of evacuation and lockdown commit these actions to their physical memories so that in a real emergency, the bodies know what to do even if the brain is on overload, hence my purpose for visualizing.
In the intro class to our principal prep program, we read Columbine. This is the best way I can see to start to prepare future school leaders for a scenario like this. The students often report a difficult time reading the detailed account by Cullen, but they also state it really broadens their understanding of school safety.