Florida high school shooting ‘close to home’ for SUNY Oswego professor

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PARKLAND, FL – FEBRUARY 14: People are brought out of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after a shooting at the school that reportedly killed and injured multiple people on February 14, 2018 in Parkland, Florida. Numerous law enforcement officials continue to investigate the scene. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Within minutes of news reports about the deadly mass shooting in Parkland, Fla. at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, a SUNY Oswego professor and mass shootings researcher says her family and friends began reaching out to her. 

Jaclyn Schildkraut, an assistant professor in SUNY Oswego’s Department of Public Justice, says it’s natural for mass shootings to “feel much more commonplace than they are,” simply because of media coverage and the public’s reaction.

The mass shooting in Parkland leaves 17 dead and more than a dozen people injured. It’s the deadliest mass shooting at a school since Sandy Hook.

“I think accordingly people have just become very desensitized to these issues and therefore it becomes an expectation that we’re going to deal with it versus not accepting it and wanting to move forward from it,” Schildkraut explained.

Schildkraut received numerous messages and calls about Wednesday’s tragedy because she grew up in Coral Springs, Fla., an area located a few miles from the high school. She also has family that still lives there.

“The connection just kept getting more and more personal,” Schildkraut said. “One of the injured being a student of my stepmother’s. One of the killed is an acquaintance or a friend of one of my former teachers. It’s very close to home.”

Schildkraut says the high school’s community is likely reeling and “trying to make sense of something that is absolutely senseless.”

In her research, Schildkraut has found that it takes years for many to heal.

“It’s going to take a really long time for that initial shock to wear off before they can even begin the grieving process,” Schildkraut explained. “There is going to be a lot of questions that go unanswered.”

However, Schildkraut says this case is different because the perpetrator is still alive. Its possible, she says, some people may be able to get answers to questions they have.

For now, and for as long as it takes, Schildkraut says families will lean on one another.

“Talk to them about what they experienced,” Schildkraut said. “Get them the resources they need in terms of grief counselors or anything of that nature.”

The SUNY Oswego professor says this is a long process and there is no solution to a quick recovery for anyone affected by the tragedy.

“They’re going to have to deal with the new normal becoming a part of the club that nobody wanted to be a part of,” Schildkraut said.

As the investigation continues and families seek closure —  Schildkraut says it’s possible the suspect’s trial will be a lengthy one.

“They’re going to have to relive it over and over again, and again, in the public eye in terms of testimony and stuff,” Schildkraut explained. “It’s very similar to what the community of Aurora [Colorado] went through and that perpetrator wasn’t convicted until 2015, three years after the shooting.”

Schildkraut says she recognizes the concerns teachers and school administrators have because of these mass shootings. She says it’s clear why districts may be seeking active shooter response training.

“Having the tools and not needing them is better than needing them and not having them,” Schildkraut said. “I think right now schools are facing not only having to deal with their own concerns of teachers having to think about. ‘How do I protect my students?’ School administrators, ‘How do I hold my community together?’ On top of that, further compounding the issue, now, you got parents who are terrified to send their kids to school under the belief that they’re not going to come home.”

As Schildkraut reflects on years of research and interviews with mass shooting survivors, she says some of these tragedies could have been prevented.

“These things can be prevented, not necessarily 100 percent,” Schildkraut said.

Schildkraut says she noticed network news reports including students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School commenting on the gunman’s past behavior. She says some students went as far as saying this person was, “most likely to commit a mass shooting.”

In her research and published work, Schildkraut stresses the importance of being vigilant.

“It’s always better to take your gut reaction or your gut feelings as correct and let law enforcement authorities sort out your concerns, if you have them,” Schildkraut said. “Be vigilant. To report when you see things aren’t right. To report when you see people’s behavior deteriorating and hopefully, we can stop more of these events from happening before they do.”

Schildkraut spoke with NewsChannel 9 Thursday morning over the phone while traveling to a conference for The Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences that’s meeting in New Orleans. She says it’s the second largest conference in the criminal justice discipline.

On Saturday, Schildkraut will present on a panel about mass shootings covering a number of topics. Schildkraut will present on a paper about lowering notoriety of perpetrators after mass shooting incidents.

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