Category Operational Issues
Title Editorial Note on School Mass Shootings
Author/s Philip Scott, Exq., Associate Editor
Preview Editorial Note on School Mass Shootings

Editorial Note on School Mass Shootings

By Philip Scott, Esq., Associate Editor

In this edition of LLU we are spotlighting how schools are responding in similar and different ways to the unfortunate phenomenon of school mass shootings in our country's primary, secondary, and higher education settings. I believe Christian schools have a unique perspective to offer both as private schools and as a faith community.

As we set out minds to seeking input from schools on this imposing topic, I was reminded that we have been here before; starting at least as early as the University of Texas clock tower shooting in 1966. I personally recalled memories of watching and reading about the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado as it unfolded. A mass shooting that launched us into a new era of school security concerns.

The school mass shooting that reverberates stronger than any other in my mind is the 2006 tragedy deep in the Pennsylvania Amish country. In Nickel Mines a local citizen, unknown to the school community, entered a one-room Amish schoolhouse where he bound all 10 female students and shot them. It was the response of this faith community that garnered the attention of the nation with their immediate and unconditional forgiveness of the shooter.

Columbine and Nickel Mines run the continuum of the issues and concerns that loom for all educational institutions. Columbine was a large public high school in the suburbs of Denver, and the perpetrators were known to the school and victims. Nickel Mines was a private, religious, rural school with just one classroom of students, and the violence was perpetrated by someone unfamiliar to the school. No school is immune based on acquaintance, size, geography, or governance.

One area Christian education should have much to add to the debate is for the mental health of our communities. Most, while not all, mass shootings have be perpetrated by someone the school had a current or prior relationship with. Whether the school was the cause of that person's angst that led to their lashing out or not, we as communities of faith should seek to help bring healing and care to those suffering.

On December 14, 2012, 20 elementary students were killed in a Connecticut school, and halfway across the world, 23 students were stabbed or slashed (primarily in the face and head) in a school in the Chinese province of Guangxi. Since China has tight control over gun access, most mass violence perpetrated in schools is with a knife or cleaver. China has a growing problem of school attacks with bladed weapons largely from the mentally unstable or distraught. An emphasis on the health of the community raises the conversation out of the polarized gun control debate. There is a place to discuss the regulation of guns but our society must also realize fixing gun access concerns is not a "silver bullet" to school violence and neither is hardening schools with weapons. Guns are but one piece that must be addressed in the larger topic of school mass shootings. Put another way, the regulation of guns only deals with a symptom and not with the root cause(s). That is not to say we do not address symptoms, but we need to realize the distinction between symptom and cause(s) and seek to address cause(s).

All of this points to the obvious. There are not quick fixes or easy solutions to a school mass violence concerns faced by students, parents, schools, and society at large. There are some things we no know, however. Psalms 127:1b (NIV) tells us, "Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain." Yes we need to be prudent and work toward reasonable ways of caring for our communities. but ultimately God is our protector and our refuge. Let's not forget, nor forgo, that our strongest defense is prayer and fasting.

What we are attempting to do is start a conversation amongst our unique segment of private, christian schools to see what responses schools are providing to these concerns and how that might help inform the greater debate on school safety.

As you read through this issue of LLU you will find a healthy mix of viewpoints from a Mennonite school that does not believe in violence to a school that has decided to responsibly arm staff. Additionally, we have resources on a crisis planning and the importance of practicing your plans on our website

Lastly, we want the conversation to continue so go to ACSI's online community ConNexus ( and the School Administrator's Group where the conversation will be ongoing and you can share with colleagues and ask questions.

*ACSI has no stated position on gun control nor the arming of staff in schools. ACSI does advocate for the freedom of each individual school to decide for itself how it will choose to respond and protect its community.

LLU 28.3

Notice:  This article is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It has been provided to member schools with the understanding that ACSI is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, tax, or other professional services. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. Laws vary by jurisdiction, and the specific application of laws to particular facts requires the advice of an attorney.

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