A King is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength…Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and shield. Our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us even as we hope in you. Psalm 33:16, 20-22, NRSV
Any time someone enters a school building for the purpose of doing harm to those inside is a tragedy. The fact that The Covenant School, a Christian elementary school in Nashville, Tennessee, was invaded by a shooter two weeks ago is no more, or less, a tragedy than similar events which occurred recently in Uvalde, Texas, or this past week, at a bank in Louisville, Kentucky. It does hit close to home for us, however, because it was a Christian school, like ours. It creates a sense of urgency for us, as we examine our campus and determine how safe it is for students and what is needed to make it safer, if possible.
This was not the first time a shooter has entered a Christian school on what appeared to be a suicidal mission. In 2006, a delivery driver who was familiar with the layout of the Nickles Mines Amish School in rural Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, entered the school and systematically ordered students, while holding a gun on them, to set up the room for the shooting during which five female students were killed, five more injured, and the shooter committed suicide. Even in a rural location and in a community that chooses isolation from the world as a lifestyle, their emergency plans were likely responsible for saving many lives, including planned access to a phone to notify authorities. But the most notable outcome of that first attack on a Christian school was the expression of forgiveness for the shooter from the community.
The community of The Covenant School is still in the process of grieving. School officials determined that the school would finish out the year in the facility of a different church, a few miles away from their own campus, in order to provide for repairs from the shooting, but also for healing that will be necessary for all of the school’s students, staff, family and its sponsoring congregation. They have been gracious in sharing information that will be helpful to other schools in making security plans. As bad as that tragedy was, given the circumstances, the emergency plans they had in place kept it from being far worse.
A Sense of Urgency and Awareness
When something like this happens, it creates a new sense of urgency and awareness in every school. We don’t like to think about the possibilities, but we have plans in place for emergencies. Drills, while necessary to implement plans, are also filled with emotion as both staff and students realize the reason for having a drill, and the shooting at Covenant serves to remind us that this is a reality we must live with. Our school has a solid crisis management plan in place that was approved during our accreditation. It was actually one of our commendations as a school.
We live with the reality, in the city, that danger to our campus might not come in the form of someone targeting the school and its students, but of getting caught up in something else happening in the neighborhood around us. So we conduct our drills and comfort our students and we pray for God’s protection over our campus.
The sense of urgency that we feel in the wake of this incident has produced some good things for us, a silver lining in a dark cloud. Anything we do at our school to increase our security is going to have an impact on the budget, everything from adding a paid security guard to improving the quality of the doorways that provide entrance to the building. All impacts to the budget eventually produce increases in tuition. But we are grateful to have some parents working on ways to lessen that impact and provide some goods and services which will help increase our security. Anything you can do, whether it is to make a small donation or find access to goods and services that will help will be welcome, just let us know what you want to do and we’ll be glad to put your help to good use.
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