“If you stand for something you will have people for you and people against you. But if you stand for nothing you will have nobody for you and nobody against you.” --Maurice Saatchi
I recently had the opportunity to visit the NAESP headquarters in Reston, VA, and found on an office wall the “Tree of Life Memorial” dedicated to Sandy Hook Principal, Dawn Hochsprung. The memorial was created to honor elementary and middle-level principals who have made an extraordinary sacrifice during their career as an educator.
The memorial “tree” features a trunk comprised of the interwoven bodies of children, or “angels,” that leads to a large blossom of leaves. Each leaf is designed to bear the name of an individual to be honored.
As I studied the tree, I noticed that some of the leaves had been filled in with names of principals who have made an extraordinary sacrifice. When I got home, I did a search and found out that three principals have been added to the “Tree of Life Memorial.” One Montana principal, who served as an associate high school principal, intervened when a young assailant shot and killed a substitute teacher. This principal was shot in the torso and then fell to the floor and the assailant tried to shoot him in the head but missed. He recovered and became an elementary principal for 10 years and helped his community heal from the event.
Two principals were from Pennsylvania. One principal was a middle level principal and he was shot and killed trying to protect the 350 students in the school cafeteria while an eighth grade boy open fired. The boy eventually took his own life. An intruder who followed a parent in to the school with a machete attacked the other elementary principal. She suffered extensive damage to her hands and needed surgery. Her quick thinking to have 911 called and order a lock down ensured that her students and staff remained safe.
Here are the latest statistics from a 2015 report on gun violence by States United to Prevent Gun Violence the parent of the local affiliate Michigan Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence:
- More than 30,000 Americans are killed by homicides, suicides, and incidental killings each year.
- Another 70,000 are injured by firearms each year.
- One child or teen dies from a gun every 3 hours and 18 minutes, making gun violence the second leading cause of death for children ages 1-19.
The goal of the Michigan Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence is to increase public awareness of gun laws, as well as to advocate and lobby for the passage of new legislation aimed at reducing gun violence. They invite you to get more information or to stand with them in their cause by emailing the organization at firstname.lastname@example.org or Michigan Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence Facebook Page or States United to Prevent Gun Violence Website
My community of Kalamazoo recently experienced a mass shooting of innocent people. It was the 42nd mass shooting (more than 3, including the shooter) in the United States since January 1st. A father and son killed by just looking for a car with a girlfriend witnessing the whole event. Four women saying goodbye at a local restaurant, gunned down in the parking lot in their cars. Two other victims, fighting for their lives with emotional and physical scars left to heal forever.
I admit that many times I have read or heard about shootings in other communities and go right on with my life. I can tell you that it is very different when it affects you personally in your own community. I am taking a stand and I am going to advocate for the reduction of gun violence. I will continue to advocate with my legislators to ensure that every school campus is a gun free zone, open or concealed with a permit. I am taking a stand to protect my family, my community, my school district, and my country.
As an advocate for children, we as servant leader principals owe it to our children, our schools, our community, and our own families to stand for something! Dawn Hochsprung, stood for something, she sacrificed her life to protect as many of her children at her school as possible from gun violence. What if, the “Tree of Life Memorial” at the NAESP building never had to have another inscription added to the leaves because we took a stand to eradicate gun violence in our schools and communities? Like Saatchi said, “If you stand for nothing, you will have nobody for you and nobody against you." Won't YOU stand for something?