School Nursing

The Relentless School Nurse: “My Mother Was a Shooter!”

After stepping off the stage at the NASN conference, where I had just concluded my 90-minute presentation on the impact of gun violence in schools, I was hopeful that my message had resonated with the audience. Little did I know that an unforgettable encounter awaited me.

As I made my way back to my seat, a school nurse approached me with a determined look on her face. She leaned in closely and said, “My mother was a shooter!” The weight of her words hit me like a ton of bricks. I wasn’t sure if I had heard her correctly, but I offered her a comforting hug and asked her to reach out to me through email so we could talk further.

Shaken by her revelation, I walked away, hoping that she would indeed get in touch. Fortunately, she did contact me, bravely sharing her story, and granting me permission to share it with others:


I was deeply moved by your presentation on gun violence prevention. I rushed to speak with you afterward because I wanted to share my personal story. My Mother was a shooter.

Throughout my entire life, my Mother struggled with mental illness, and as a child, I couldn’t comprehend the gravity of what I was witnessing. In 2010, she experienced a psychotic breakdown, and for six years, I fought tirelessly to get her the help she needed. I battled against doctors and hospitals who made abrupt changes to her medications or abruptly stopped them altogether. Despite my pleas and those of my family, she was sent home from the hospital on January 27th, 2016, only to commit a tragic act – she shot and killed her father in their home in front of family members.

When I reached out to lawyers and legislators seeking justice, I was met with closed doors. The lawyers refused to take on a negligence case, and the state legislators were unavailable due to a “Legislative Holiday.” For months, I tried desperately to have my voice heard, but my legislators remained unresponsive.

Currently, my mother resides in a mental health institution in Chattanooga, TN, and she was found not guilty by reason of insanity. We are now working towards having her transferred to a group home, hopefully by the end of this year.

For me, this has never been solely about guns; it’s about the systemic failures of our mental health system. I am aware that I’m not alone in this struggle, but I also know that much work remains to be done. I yearn for the opportunity to stand before a Congressional body and share my story, advocating for comprehensive MENTAL HEALTH reform. Simply taking away guns will not solve the underlying issue; we must address the core problem of mental illness. Our society deserves better.

Your message that day resonated with me deeply, not only as the child of a “violent offender” but also as a School Nurse. The prevailing narrative that safety and violence prevention don’t involve School Nurses needs to change. We, as School Nurses, are agents of change and guardians for our students. It’s disheartening that we are often the last to be called upon to contribute to collaborative discussions because we lack representation. Even within my school district and state, I am determined to find my place at the table and, one day, advocate at the national level. Your relentless dedication gives me hope that my voice can make a difference. Thank you for sharing your own heartache and for fighting tirelessly to prevent violence in our schools.

The power of sharing our stories is truly transformational. A courageous school nurse opened up about her deeply personal family tragedy, and the impact of hearing about my own family’s experience unlocked a door she had never considered stepping through. I am immensely grateful to this nurse for trusting me with her message, and it motivates me to support our colleagues who are using their own stories to drive change in the narrative around gun violence prevention.

This encounter reaffirmed the vital role that school nurses play in ensuring school and community safety. The importance of our work in advocating for violence prevention cannot be underestimated. Inspired by stories like the one shared by this brave school nurse, I am more determined than ever to continue spreading the message about the expanded role of school nursing in gun violence prevention.

Together, by sharing our experiences and lending our voices to this critical cause, we can effect real change. I am committed to this mission, knowing that stories like the one shared by the courageous school nurse have the potential to make a lasting impact and create a safer environment for students and communities.

3 thoughts on “The Relentless School Nurse: “My Mother Was a Shooter!””

  1. A tragic and preventable gun violence death. Your strength to share your story connect this school nurse to share hers. You are building a strong powerful movement together. She also has courage and conviction to work to make the world safer. Our mental health system needs serious attention and change. May you both keep sharing your stories.

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