School Principals Form Unwanted but Necessary Group

A deep dive into the Principal Recovery Network, a support group for leaders at schools affected by gun violence
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 19, 2023 8:33 AM CST
Principals Led Their Schools Through Trauma. Now, Their Turn to Heal
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/kilukilu)

Frank DeAngelis used to belong to a lonely club of one. Now, he's got nearly two dozen companions in that club, but it's one he wishes didn't exist. In fact, DeAngelis—the former principal of Colorado's Columbine High School, where a 1999 mass shooting left 12 students and one teacher dead—calls it the club "no one wants to join," per Men's Health, which reports on an "unlucky" faction of principals and assistant principals at schools that have experienced gun violence, including mass shootings. These current and former school leaders have now come together to form the Principal Recovery Network, a support group with 21 members so far from such schools as Columbine, Sandy Hook, and Parkland's Marjorie Stoneman Douglas, as well as others that aren't as well known.

Since the group's 2019 founding, PRN's members have discussed everything from survivors' guilt and the young people lost, to thoughts that haunt them on how they could've handled things differently. The group also reaches out to other principals when their schools experience a gun violence situation, offering advice on reopening, anniversary commemorations, and the like (the group has a best-practices handbook). Even the positive support offered to communities after school shootings can be overwhelming, with an avalanche of letters, donations, and other tributes that need to be managed. There's also the school chiefs' own emotions that need processing, which is often put on the back burner. "They're almost forced into adopting a first-responder mentality," says Jaclyn Schildkraut, director of the Rockefeller Institute of Government's Regional Gun Violence Research Consortium. "Only after everyone else is OK can you deal with your own stuff." Read the full piece here. (Read more school shootings stories.)

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