Students at El Camino Real Academy in Santa Fe, NM, join together on March 14th, 2018, to observe 17 minutes of silence in honor of the 17 students killed in last month's school shooting in Parkland, FL.
Last month, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the nation witnessed its deadliest mass school shooting since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012. In light of increasing gun violence and death tolls in schools across the country and a sobering awareness of the need for preventative measures and safety protocols, communities are coming together in an attempt to curb the violence.
For Santa Fe residents, the issue hit close to home last November when a detailed kill list and shooting plan was discovered on the grounds of Santa Fe High School. The evidence was turned over to authorities, and a 15-year-old student was identified as the author. Only one month later, in an unrelated incident, two students were shot and killed by a 21-year-old man at Aztec High School in Aztec, New Mexico. Last month alone, authorities across the state responded to threats of gun violence at Espanola High School, Ortiz Middle School, Belen High School, and Las Cruces High School, among others.
The reality of gun violence in school settings demands the immediate attention of those who share concerns for the well-being of our children and their futures. Addressing physical safety is a primary concern; however, we must also consider the psychological toll reports of gun violence have on students. Many of us had either graduated high school or were on the tail-end of our K-12 educations when the Columbine massacre took place in 1999, but as it stands currently, every school-age child in America has grown up alongside frequent reports of mass school shootings and increasingly complex acts of violence committed by and against members of their own age groups.
As an organization fully vested in the physical and social-emotional well-being of children, we are utilizing our position within eight of Santa Fe's public schools not only to support the district in their efforts to address student safety issues and concerns, but to implement additional protocols and best practices, ensuring no child falls through the cracks. We invite you -- parents, teachers, students, politicians, advocates and activists, community leaders and organizers -- to join in a growing movement committed to keeping our schools safe for children.
Our Strategies to Promote Student Safety
Implement Student Safety Plans
Angelica Suarez holds a master's degree in clinical psychology and has experience working in both the public and private sectors in the state of California. Now a site coordinator at El Camino Real Academy, she worked with CIS administrators earlier this month to develop Student Safety Plans which will ensure that no child falls through the cracks. If a student exhibits signs of abuse, neglect, self-harm, or other concerning behavior, an individualized Student Safety Plan is created to ensure the child receives the care and support they need until a positive resolution is achieved. The plans are systematic and follow the student from practitioner to practitioner, mandating specific and timely follow up. This results in greater overall child well-being and adult accountability. It also closes the gaps that may otherwise arise between the individuals that monitor and provide support for vulnerable children.
Support Santa Fe Public Schools' Efforts to Prevent Violence
At a recent series of grade-level assemblies, Capital High School Principal Mariah Runyan addressed students to ensure they were informed about safety protocols in the event of threats or acts of gun violence at the school. One important topic that was covered was prevention. Students were not only encouraged to "See something; say something," but also to remember how important a community of kindness and inclusion is for a healthy student body. CIS supports the school district's efforts to ensure the safety of all students, and currently has 11 full-time site coordinators in 8 Santa Fe public schools who work to implement anti-bullying strategies, identify at-risk students, and provide a safe and nurturing space for all students in need of support.
Improve School Climate and Provide Social-Emotional Learning Opportunities
Last week, on March 14th, thousands of students around the country walked out of their classes in order to take a stand against gun violence in schools. Among the participating schools in Santa Fe, students at El Camino Real Academy organized their own walkout in honor of the 17 fallen victims of Florida's mass shooting last month. Locked arm-in-arm, they stood in silence around the school's football field, while several students held signs, and another beat a large drum to signify the passing of each life. CIS Site Coordinator Mary Louise Romero-Betancourt and several teachers stood in support of the students, recognizing their need to connect with the growing movement of school-aged children who are demanding that their voices be heard and their safety be made a Congressional priority. At the conclusion of the 17-minute demonstration, Mary Louise faced the students and told them, "Turn to the person standing next to you and tell them, 'You are important; you matter.' Go find the person sitting alone at lunch today and sit beside them. Be kind to each other. I'm proud of you." On any given day, Mary Louise can be found providing an unwavering stream of praise and support to students who face a multitude of challenges ranging from a lack of warm clothing or homelessness, to substance abuse or the deportation of a parent.