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Teaching After Witnessing a School Shooting

Echoes of Gunfire

Edward Mooney, Jr.

Imagine the hours and weeks after you've witnessed a school shooting. You run the emotional gamut between disorientation and severe anxiety. When you return to the classroom, you're unsure how to cope. Your classroom used to be a safe space; is it still? In this book, the experience of two teachers before, during and after they witnessed school shootings are analyzed to determine the effects of these incidents on their lives. In one case, a teacher who observed a shooting of one student by another, struggled with severe Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Her issues, along with actions by school administration, led to her psychological disability. In the second case, at a different school, another teacher watched a gunman randomly firing at students; he was able to continue teaching. A comparison helps to understand the psychological and organizational factors that affect educators who witnessed a school shooting.

This book would be critical in courses training school administrators, and for those teaching graduate research courses. In addition, this would be useful for mental health professionals and emergency responders seeking to get a glimpse into what teachers who witness school shootings are going through.

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Chapter 13. A Question About the Interviews and Data



“I know that, in studies, you have to interview people, and gather data. How did you do that?” Janice asked.

An Answer

Data Collection

Data came from a number of primary sources, including interviews with the participants, medical documents regarding Melissa’s disability, school letters and forms regarding the on-campus issues of both participants, court documents in the subsequent legal actions against the shooters, discussions with friends and relatives of the participants, as applicable and available, news items from the time of the incidents and campus visits, as practical and applicable. These sources were utilized to triangulate and corroborate the facts in the case and to understand themes and perspectives.


The participants were questioned in a series of interviews. In the first phase of the interviews, a discussion of life up until the incident took place. The second phase focused on the shooting incidents witnessed. The final phase covered the period just after the incident, extending to approximately six months after the shooting.

The participants authorized their participation by use of an unsigned authorization form. This form stated that by starting the interview they consented to participation (see appendix). This form, recommended by the IRB board, allowed for maximum anonymity for the participants. In addition, state licensed psychological therapists were available before, during and after the interviews, for emotional and counseling support.

Their consent allowed...

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