Columbine Survivor On Florida School Shooting
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
The man accused of opening fire on a school in Parkland, Fla., killing 17 people, was 19 years old. He'd been expelled from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last year for disciplinary issues. And it's been reported widely this week that some of his classmates and teachers could see that he was a troubled young man - even the FBI was alerted. The chief public defender in Broward County said every red flag was there. So why were so many signs ignored? What may have gone so monstrously wrong? Samantha Haviland was a student and a peer counselor at Columbine High School in 1999 when two of her classmates killed 12 students and one teacher. Ms. Haviland is now the director of counseling support services for the Denver Public Schools. And she joins us. Ms. Haviland, thanks so much for being with us.
SAMANTHA HAVILAND: Oh, thank you for having me.
SIMON: And I have to - forgive me - begin by asking, weeks like this bring memories back?
HAVILAND: Weeks like this remind me of why a community is so important - that you are responsible for each other as a whole community.
SIMON: Would you give any advice to counselors who have seen troubled students - students who they think might create trouble - as to what they should do?
HAVILAND: Absolutely. You want to talk with parents. You want to make it a part of the conversation. You want to talk with administrators and make sure that the school environment is safe and always possible. You want to make sure that you've created a community among the students where the students - when they see something, they will tell you.
SIMON: Do the schools in Denver have live fire lockdown drills?
HAVILAND: Oh, yes. On Friday morning, I was involved in a lockout drill at one of my high schools as I was sitting in a counseling office, talking with a student.
SIMON: And I guess as a parent, I have learned to be grateful that these drills are held. But I wonder if there are some students who aren't panicked by the drills in and of themselves.
HAVILAND: It can be a very scary experience. It's a reality now that our students in our schools are preparing for. So when we do a drill, we don't tell our students they are drills because we need them to take everything seriously. And we want to normalize and help them feel calm during those things. And I've also wondered, what is the impact of doing these drills for our students?
SIMON: Well, you're a gifted counselor. What do you think it might be?
HAVILAND: I think it's triggering our students who have already experienced trauma and secondary trauma, and they've seen things. And we've seen students go through all kinds of emotional reactions during drills - panic and sadness and grief and fear because during those drills, you really don't know what's happening.
SIMON: Given your history, given what you do now, given how close you come to some of these terrible issues, issues that are often too terrible to contemplate - if there are any one, two or three things you can change or say need to be done right now, what would they be?
HAVILAND: I think our schools are doing everything they possibly can to make the environment safe. And I think one of the things that needs to change is it is not a conversation just for our schools anymore. What's happening is our world and our society are now entering our schools. And so we need to address our world and our society.
SIMON: Samantha Haviland, director of counseling support services for the Denver Public Schools, thanks so much for being with us.
HAVILAND: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.