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.
Here is Nelba’s family’s story, just published in The Washington Post by the award-winning journalist, John Woodrow Cox. I am so honored and humbled that Nelba reached out to me for support and guidance. Read this incredible story, you will understand the intersection of gun violence, COVID, and school safety:
To honor her memory, Nelba and her family created The Ana Grace Project because “Love Wins, It Also Saves Lives.”
Founded in 2013 in memory of Ana Grace Márquez-Greene, The Ana Grace Project was born as a response to the tragedy that took her life in Sandy Hook, CT on 12/14/12. “Love Wins” is the slogan adopted by her family immediately after the tragedy. It has been a rallying cry. The Ana Grace Project is dedicated to promoting love, community and connection for every child and family through three lead initiatives: partner schools, professional development, and music & arts. – retrieved from The Ana Grace Project
I was honored to be Nelba’s guest on Central Connecticut State University – CCSU: Central to You. I shared information about returning to school in the midst of a pandemic and answered community questions about school safety. You can watch the discussion by clicking the arrow below.
Published by Robin Cogan, MEd, RN, NCSN, FNASN, FAAN
Robin Cogan, MEd, RN, NCSN, FNASN, FAAN, is a Nationally Certified School Nurse (NCSN), currently in her 22nd year as a New Jersey school nurse in the Camden City School District. Robin is the Director for New Jersey to the National Association of School Nurses (NASN) Board. She is proud to be a Johnson & Johnson School Health Leadership Fellow and past Program Mentor. Robin is the honored recipient of multiple awards for her work in school nursing and population health. These awards include, 2019 and 2020 National Association of School Nurses President’s Award, 2018 NCSN School Nurse of the Year, 2017 Johnson & Johnson School Nurse of the Year, and the New Jersey Department of Health 2017 Population Health Hero Award. Robin serves as faculty in the School Nurse Certificate Program at Rutgers University-Camden School of Nursing, where she teaches the next generation of school nurses. She was presented the 2018 Rutgers University – Camden Chancellor’s Teaching Excellence Award for Part-time Faculty. Robin writes a weekly blog called The Relentless School Nurse. She also writes a monthly column in My American Nurse, the official journal of the American Nurses Association. Robin’s work is included as a case study in The Future of Nursing Report 2020-2030. You can follow Robin on Twitter at @RobinCogan.
View all posts by Robin Cogan, MEd, RN, NCSN, FNASN, FAAN
1 thought on “The Relentless School Nurse: A Late Night Message, “Robin, I have one child left. What should we do about school?””
Thanks for sharing this powerful story – so very sad and scary!