PARKLAND, Fla. — A group of principals who have dealt with school shooting tragedies on their campuses met with leaders in Washington D.C. this week to push for more communication and legislation to protect students and staff members, and to address mental health issues.
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The Principal Recovery Network is a group of current and former school leaders who have experienced gun violence at their schools.
One of those leaders is Ty Thompson, who was the principal at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland when the deadly Valentine's Day shooting happened in 2018, killing 14 students and three staff members.
Thompson said the Principal Recovery Network is the group that no one wants to be in, but it's been therapeutic to be with a group of people who have gone through similar experiences.
"When we first met and we got together and everyone kind of told their story, it was very therapeutic because we were hearing the same things," Thompson said. "And I think that's what brought us together. Such a tight-knit group. Now it's like family, and we really enjoy meeting together and to talk about how can we help out the next people and try to prevent these things from happening."
Thompson and the other network members spent time in Washington, D.C. this week, talking to lawmakers about gun violence at schools. They spoke about legislation that Congress could pass to support mental health, wellness, and safety initiatives.
The former Parkland principal said this visit felt different.
"What was most eye-opening to me and the group was when we're able to get to the table with some of these groups, we all have a similar mission of moving forward and how we can do that. And I really felt like we were able to develop some partnerships with our government entities," Thompson said. "We want them, the government, to promote us when they are reaching out to these districts, saying, 'Hey, we know this group of principals that can probably help your principal.'"
Thompson was a founding member of the Principal Recovery Network, which was established in April 2019.
"We're about, how do we rebound from a tragedy?" Thompson said. "We still have to get kids educated and staff doing their jobs and helping communities. So how can we help do that? And although there's not a blueprint or a playbook, but there is some things that are common after a tragedy. And I think that's what we came up with."
Thompson now works in the information technology department for Broward County schools.
For more information about the Principal Recovery Network, click here.