A checklist no one wants: 8 steps to take after a school shooting

Invest in mental health, vet vendors carefully, model skills for coping with anxiety, and more


Hechinger Report

June 6, 2024

Summary of "A Checklist No One Wants: 8 Steps to Take After a School Shooting" by Javeria Salman

In the aftermath of school shootings, educators face the daunting task of guiding their communities through recovery. Javeria Salman's article, "A Checklist No One Wants: 8 Steps to Take After a School Shooting," published on June 6, 2024, offers crucial strategies for schools to support students and staff as they navigate the long and challenging path to healing.

1. Immediate Mental Health Support

Heather Martin, a survivor of the Columbine High School shooting and an English teacher at Aurora Central High School, emphasizes the importance of immediate mental health support. Martin, who co-founded The Rebels Project to assist survivors, underscores the need for understanding and non-judgmental support. Marleen Wong, CEO of the Center for Safe and Resilient Schools and Workplaces, points out that deploying mental health professionals right after an incident is essential to prevent "deaths of despair" such as suicides among students and staff.

2. Phased Recovery

Jennifer Freeman, an associate professor at the University of Connecticut, explains that recovery occurs in phases. The first week focuses on addressing immediate psychological needs, followed by a period of community unity. However, as external support wanes, the reality of a prolonged recovery sets in, requiring schools to establish long-term support systems. Recovery timelines and efforts will vary, and it’s crucial to recognize that recovery is not a linear process.

3. Avoid New Projects

Freeman advises against initiating new projects or strategic shifts immediately after a crisis, as the capacity for change within the district will be limited. The focus should remain on stabilizing and supporting the school community.

4. Increase Staffing and Resources

Schools should consider temporarily increasing staffing and resources to meet the heightened therapeutic and educational needs of students and staff. Appointing a recovery coordinator can help manage the process and ensure the creation of a comprehensive recovery plan.

5. Vet External Help Carefully

After a crisis, schools are often approached by vendors offering safety, trauma recovery, and mental health programs. Freeman stresses the importance of selecting evidence-based practices that align with the school’s needs.

6. Collect and Utilize Data

Gathering data from various sources, including school climate surveys, can help identify recovery patterns and highlight vulnerable students and staff. This data-driven approach enables targeted interventions.

7. Foster Strong Relationships

Reestablishing strong connections between staff and students is vital. Freeman highlights the importance of ensuring that all members of the school community feel welcomed and connected.

8. Collaborate with Law Enforcement

Building a trusting relationship with local law enforcement before any incident ensures that response teams understand the sensitivities of school crises and can avoid re-traumatizing students.

Additional Recommendations

  • Model Emotional Regulation Skills: Educators should practice and teach techniques such as deep breathing to help students manage anxiety and stress.
  • Use Established Resources: Resources like the Principal Recovery Network's guide, developed by principals who have experienced school shootings, can provide valuable support and guidance.

Martin, who eventually sought professional trauma therapy, emphasizes the necessity for educators to care for their own mental health. "You can’t help other people, unless you help yourself," she states, reinforcing the need for self-care among teachers.


Salman's article underscores the complexity of recovering from school shootings and offers practical steps to support this challenging journey. By focusing on immediate mental health support, phased recovery, and building strong, trusting relationships, schools can help their communities heal and rebuild.

Source: Javeria Salman, "A Checklist No One Wants: 8 Steps to Take After a School Shooting," The Hechinger Report, June 6, 2024. Link

Original Article


Prepared with the assistance of AI software

OpenAI. (2024). ChatGPT (4) [Large language model]. https://chat.openai.com

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