What can we learn from the Stoneman Douglas school shooting?

Thursday, February 15, 2018


For guidance on how to talk with students about mass shootings, you may want to read SAMHSA’s “Tips for Talking With and Helping Children and Youth Cope After a Disaster or Traumatic Event: A guide for Parents, Caregivers, and Teachers.”

News article with updates: What we know about the Florida school shooting


  1. A shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, a northern Miami suburb, killed 17 people on Wednesday in the fifth school shooting of 2018 in which lives have been lost.
  2. Nikolas Cruz, 19, a former student who had been expelled from Stoneman, was arrested soon after the shooting. He had legally purchased the AR-15 semi-automatic rifle used in the assault.
  3. During the attack, students in the school tweeted updates with friends and family, along with images and videos that showed them huddled under desks and in closets.
  4. In a national address from the White House on Thursday, President Donald Trump said he wanted America’s youth to know, “You are never alone, and you never will be.” He said he plans to explore how to better secure schools and to “tackle the difficult issue of mental health.”
  5. “We’re children. You guys are the adults,” said David Hogg, a senior at Stoneman High School and student news director, pleading for elected officials to take action.
  6. It was a “catastrophic day,” said Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel. “There really are no words,” he added. Israel said FBI agents are now part of the investigation.

Discussion questions

  1. Essential questionWhy does discussion of gun policy appear to be so difficult in the U.S.?
  2. Stoneman senior David Hogg called on lawmakers and the President to take action that would “save thousands of children’s lives.” Do you get the sense that elected leaders are listening to young people? Explain your response.
  3. Why did President Trump mention the need for mental health services? What efforts have been made by lawmakers and the President to enact such measures?
  4. How might the role of social media affect how the public understands the trauma involved in school shootings?
  5. What do you know about gun policy in the U.S.? Why do gun laws vary by each state?
  6. It is extremely difficult to know how to react to a mass shooting. What should you do if you feel uncomfortable or worried about the events in Parkland, Florida? Who could you talk with at your school? Ask your teacher if you are unsure.
  7. Media literacy questions:
    • What are you hearing in school or seeing on the internet or TV about the Stoneman shooting?
    • If you watch footage of the shooting, why might it be helpful to do so with a family member?

Extension activity

Visit PBS NewsHour Extra for more education resources designed to help teachers and students identify the who, what, where and why-it-matters of the major national and international news stories.  @NewsHourExtra