From the Head of School...
I was standing in an aisle in a Florida supermarket with one of my sons when I saw the news update on my phone: “School Shooting in Maryland.” My son saw my face fall and asked, “what happened?” with a look expecting something awful. I don’t remember ever feeling that way as a child . . . ever wondering if my middle school classroom would be safe . . . ever saying the words “gun violence” as a teenager . . . or ever walking into a crowded public space and thinking, even a little, that something terrible might happen. I wanted to reassure him and be honest, but those intentions felt mutually exclusive in the moment.
Twenty-four hours later, I started typing. As both a parent and educator, I feel compelled to raise the issue of gun violence/gun control . . . but seeking ways to offer clarity or comfort is escaping me.
So here is what I know. First, it is our collective responsibility to listen to the voices of students across our country asking us to study and solve this tragic, numbing, and overwhelming problem. I am not suggesting easy answers nor ignoring the history, politics, and vast opinion woven throughout the topic of gun control and legislation, but I have confidence in our ability to press pause on all of that dissent and agree that there is nothing worth more than the safety of our children.
Second, and on that note, I know that many people wiser than I have suggested that we view gun violence - and preventative measures aimed at reducing/eliminating injury and death caused (for instance) in school shootings - through the lens of public health. While the parallel examples are imperfect at best, we have made significant and powerful strides in improving health & wellness, and reducing disease & disability through initiatives designed to provide benefit at both the individual and community level. Tobacco legislation, seatbelt laws, and cancer screenings, for example, have saved innumerable lives. I would encourage you to spend even a few minutes searching “gun violence as a public health issue;” you will find countless articles from a wide variety of authors, institutions, and media. An example from an institution dear to me: Columbia University Public Health Now
Third, I know that my two greatest responsibilities as Head of School are intertwined: 1) keeping our students and community safe, and 2) hiring and retaining the most student-centered, committed, and passionate faculty and staff possible as members of a team of adults joined by a common mission. I have been known to say - time and again - that it is our shared expectation as the adults on Canterbury’s hilltop to be present and proactive. We pay attention. We know one another as individuals. We ask campus visitors how we can direct them. We expect our students to look beyond themselves and take care of one another. Every day. Present and proactive.
Finally, I know that there are very few things in this world we can control, and that acknowledgement can feel defeating at times. However, the voices of our students and children are loud and insistent, so let us be informed, proactive, and fiercely protective of our work and community at Canterbury.
Rachel E. Stone
Head of School
For those seeking ways to engage your children, and one another, on these topics, the following is an additional resource: Resiliency After Violence | Harvard Graduate School of Education