16 Feb

Thoughts on the Florida Tragedy & Connections with our Community

We stopped what we were doing yesterday morning for a moment of silence at our assembly, led by our student government president, to honor and remember victims of the Parkland shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. As we went through the day, we realized that there were several Dwight-Englewood connections to students and teachers in that school, as well as connections to residents of Parkland itself. These connections generated an emotional impact on the Upper School student body, and there was a palpable feeling of sadness in the division. Beyond the general horror, this incident had a direct bearing on members of the School, which also heightened some anxiety and had some students feeling a little jittery about being in school at all.

I spoke briefly to students before we held our moment of silence, and recognized the connections and the sadness, shock, and grief that was in the room. I also tried to remind everyone that we work hard on community safety, but in the end our best safety comes from community awareness and the willingness of every member of our D-E family to stay alert to issues with friends and peers, and to say something if they see something or feel that someone they know is distressed. In a community like ours I will always hope that our empathy for others will motivate any member to react if something does not feel right to them.

As students went through the day, continuing to process the events, it was fascinating and heartwarming to hear their thoughtful reflections. Older students especially were asking all the right questions about the incident, wondering about important aspects of the incident that ranged from the availability of guns to the security in the school to the horror that this young man was so public on social media. Alongside their sadness they were reflecting their critical thinking about such issues, indicating maturity and insight that was wonderful to see and encouraging to see in our future citizens and leaders of society.

It does not get easier to respond to these events of violence, in schools or elsewhere, but today we felt a closer emotional tie to the incident that will linger as community members mourn the death or trauma of friends and family.