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This American Life Explores School Shootings
posted by: Melissa | October 23, 2018, 05:39 PM   

On October 12, 2018 the radio series This American Life dedicated an entire episode to one of the most persistent challenges today: How we’re preparing for and reacting to school shootings. The show, titled Before the Next One, explored the issue in typical This American Life format by focusing on deeply personal accounts and first-hand experiences and used these stories to explore the various issues surrounding school shootings.

The episode started by showcasing a school that had decided to arm its staff. The host followed school staff as they ran through active shooter drills that were designed to train them to effectively respond to a school shooting. This segment quickly revealed how rough this training process was and how many mistakes were made by participating staff. This outcome may lead the listener to assume the segment would close out with a litany of reasons arguing against arming the staff. But then, the show flipped the script by none other than the school’s principal, when he revealed how far away the school is from any emergency medical services, making a strong case for arming the staff as their only option.

The next segment in This American Life highlighted a couple who lost their child in a shooting. In this moving account, they describe how they went from newly grieving parents to dedicating their lives to helping other parents facing their own tragic loss.

The section of the show most relevant to educators, though, was the examination of the effectiveness of holding active shooter drills. The show poses the question, can any school ever be prepared for a school shooting? Should you even try?

Experts in the field discuss teacher preparedness and school security. They explore various methods of preparing for school shootings, the potential pitfalls that schools and districts can encounter and the consequences of getting it wrong.

Then, This American Life put a human face on what the experts said by speaking to the people who are in the best position to know: the teachers of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Stoneman Douglas had prepared for a potential school shooting just months before. Their teachers had been through their training. Did they learn the lessons the safety experts wanted them to? How did they feel about their training and how did those feelings impact their actions?

The entire episode is worth a listen, you can find it on the This American Life website along with other education-themed shows like the one on integration or the one on issues facing urban schools.

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