Father Of Parkland Victim Helps Create Federal Resource Website For School Safety Improvements
Friday marks two years since the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
On Feb. 14, 2018, a former student burst into the school with an AR-15 style semi-automatic rifle and killed 17 people in what became the deadliest high school shooting in U.S. history.
This week, the White House, with help of four federal departments, experts and some Parkland families, unveiled an online resource center — schoolsafety.gov — to help schools prevent deadly tragedies.
One of the Parkland parents involved is Max Schachter, whose 14-year-old son Alex Schachter was in English class when he was killed in the shooting. Schachter, the founder and CEO of “Safe Schools for Alex,” says his son was a “happy, good little boy,” who was both musically and athletically talented.
“Alex was the child that you’d want your kid to be best friends with,” he says.
Schachter says dealing with the trauma of losing his son has been “absolutely unimaginable.”
“Nobody thinks that you send your kid to school and they’re never going to come home again,” he says. “I sent him off to school that day and just I never got to say goodbye.”
The nightmare prompted Schachter to make a change in how schools nationwide address safety. He says he traveled across the country and discovered most educators were figuring out safety protocols as they go. And because the U.S. previously did not have any recognized standards or practices, schools were relying on outside vendors for safety measures, he says.
He also saw how change was sparked after major events such as 9/11 terrorist attacks or the Oklahoma City bombing — yet 20 years after the Columbine High School massacre, “children and teachers are still being murdered in their classrooms,” he says.
After working closely with the White House and dozens of politicians across the aisle, Schachter says his idea for a “clearinghouse on school safety” became a priority on President Trump’s commission report.
The White House commissioned four departments to collaborate in establishing the website — the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Education, Department of Justice and Department of Health and Human Services
Next, they created foundational elements of school safety that any school in the country can use to prevent violence, and protect students and faculty, he says.
Schoolsafety.gov is a federal “one-stop-shop” for educators, administrators, parents and students. The website covers topics such as bullying, threat assessment and reporting, mental health, emergency planning and more.
Schachter says his mission is to protect children in schools, so he’s willing to work with anyone who also views school safety top as a priority.
Although he supports gun control, Schachter says he’s working with Trump — who has a mixed record on gun control — because he says he’s “not going to let perfection be the enemy of good.”
It would be unproductive to his cause to reject the offer of working with the Trump administration on the website, he says.
“I focus on schools, and anyone that will support making schools safe, I will work with,” he says.
On the anniversary of the massacre, he says he’ll be with family, remembering the moments they all cherished with Alex.
“I would give everything up in a second just to have one more minute with my little boy,” he says.
This article was originally published on WBUR.org.
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