I received this text message in the early morning hours during one of my many sleepless nights grappling with how to safely reopen school. Nelba, the mom who asked this question, is from Sandy Hook. The story behind the message is that she is a parent who has already had an unthinkable loss at school. Nelba reached out to me asking how she can make a safe decision to send her surviving son to school in the midst of a pandemic.
We don’t have answers for communities like Nelba’s that were already traumatized prior to COVID19. We are not even asking those tough questions in the media but these families are asking themselves these very hard questions. The school safety conversation must include first-degree relative survivors of gun violence who are being asked to decide to send their children back to school. School safety was precarious prior to COVID19. The intersection of COVID-19 and gun violence, two epidemics ravaging our country, is school.
Keep windows and doors open at school to improve air circulation to protect students and staff from COVID-19. But lock windows and doors at school to protect students and staff from school shooters. Which guidelines do we follow for which epidemic? School safety for COVID-19 or school safety for gun violence prevention?
When Nelba sent her late-night message, I cried because I knew that she had touched on something that needed to be discussed, shared, and confronted. My heart hurt because this question had to be raised at all. I felt wounded for this mom, who, as she says, “has already been in harm’s way” by the death of her daughter, Ana Grace.