By Brian G. Ricca, Ed.D
On Monday, March 27, at approximately 9:40 a.m., the East Greenwich Police Department received a “swatting call” directed at East Greenwich High School. This false report alleged an individual with a weapon was inside the building. The false threat that our high school received that day was consistent with what several other Rhode Island communities experienced that morning.
As a result, EGHS was immediately placed in lockdown, consistent with our School Emergency Operations Plan. Meadowbrook Farms Elementary School was placed in a shelter-in-place out of an abundance of caution because of its proximity to the high school. The police arrived on the scene shortly after the call and conducted a thorough search of the building. They determined there was no threat to EGHS or any other facility in our District. The lockdown at EGHS and shelter-in-place at Meadowbrook were lifted shortly after that. Our day returned to “normal.”
More than 1,000 miles away, in a different time zone, on Monday, March 27, at approximately 10:13 a.m., the Nashville Police Department began receiving calls about a different kind of emergency. The calls were in hushed tones, with crying and the sounds of gunfire in the background. The first officers arrived on the scene by 10:21a.m. They “engaged” the suspect at 10:24 a.m., and within two minutes of their arrival, the suspect was dead. All according to the Associated Press. In those interim minutes, six individuals were killed.
Emily Dieckhaus (9), Mike Hill (61), William Kinney (9), Katherine Koonce (60), Cynthia Peak (61), and Hallie Scruggs (9) all went to The Covenant School that day expecting to come home when the day was over. Their families expected to see them again. Hug them again. Hold them again. See them again. They did not come home. They were killed by an assault-style weapon, the same weapon that allowed the suspect to enter the building.
According to the Washington Post, there have been 376 shootings since 1999, which means more than 348,000 students have experienced gun violence at school since the incident at Columbine High School. I’ve been “feeling” these incidents differently since December 14, 2012. Not only was the devastation at Sandy Hook the first school shooting I experienced as a superintendent, but Patrick, our oldest son, was six that day. The same age as many of the victims. We were on vacation that day and were in the car together as a family when my cell phone buzzed with notifications. As I began to grasp the gravity of the situation, I was only comforted knowing that my two children were safely in the car with My Wife and me, securely in their five-point harnessed car seats, visible in my rear-view mirror.
The Monday following that awful incident, I walked them both into school, past a Williston, Vt., police officer. As we approached the entrance to the building, both boys let go of my hands, walked up to the police officer, and shook his hand. With tears in my eyes, I did as well.
We must do better by our children, by our own children, and by other people’s children. We do need more mental health services for children and adults. It’s not just about School Resource Officers (there were armed officers present in Uvalde). It’s absolutely not about arming teachers (Tennessee is one of 25 states that allows people to carry concealed weapons without a permit, and there are reports from 911 calls that there were armed staff members at The Covenant School, though not confirmed by the authorities).
It’s about the guns. Plain and simple.
I had the privilege to meet former Senator Patrick Leahy twice while I lived in Vermont. I once heard him speak once about the reality of gun violence. Senator Leahy is a hunter and a gun owner, which made me curious about his views. Suffice it to say I was moved by his remarks that day. While I did not take notes from that event, I was able to find a floor speech of his from June 2022:
We have a problem in the United States when the leading cause of childhood death in 2020 was firearms. We are the adults who must protect our children. We must protect our children. If we do nothing, we are not protecting them.
When will it be enough?
Brian G. Ricca, Ed.D., is the superintendent of East Greenwich Public Schools.
Thank you Supt. Ricca !!
I could not agree more, thank you for sharing Supt. Ricca! I expect you’ll get quite a bit of negative feedback on this in the coming days from people who staunchly oppose this position. Just know that those of us who agree greatly appreciate your post!
Who opposes keeping children safe as you say Heather?
I’m sure your infringement on my 2A rights is negative feedback in your mind. If you don’t like the Constitution, there are procedures to change it. Good luck!
It is about time we fortify our schools with those who will protect all children instead of political rhetoric! Action not words!
Where is the “Well Regulated” part of the 2nd amendment?
Bill please use all the words in the 2A… ” Well Regulated Militia…..It means the militia was in an effective shape to fight.” In other words, it didn’t mean the state was controlling the militia in a certain way, but rather that the militia was prepared to do its duty.
What does the 2nd Amendment mean for militia?
In the 2008 case District of Columbia v. Heller, the Supreme Court held that the “Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.”
So nice try! It is not the weapon but the “person” behind the weapon who is the problem. The 2A is a ” Constitutional Right” not to be infringed upon.
Hi Bob…..: I’m sure your are right regarding the legalize but it seems to me that the very least that should be done to keep guns out of the hands of mentally disturbed people is a background check for every firearm sale. I believe one can go to a gun show and buy whatever you want, without ANY background check, take it home and the next day commit some atrocity. Please correct me if I’m wrong. This is where the words well regulated should apply.
Agreed. The kids must come first.
I completely agree that more mental health professionals are needed in schools. But, since guns aren’t going away anytime soon what are your plans to keep our kids safe, Mr Ricca? Apart from tweeting throughout the school day, writing a fluffy opinion piece weekly and spending part of the week out of district I think everyone including myself would agree more mental health services in schools would be a great start. But what about the more than 50% of school shooters that aren’t students? How do we protect our kids from them? You do a great job tweeting about your anti 2A agenda but don’t seem to convey any plans to keep our kids safe now, today.
Mr Cahir – plans that are about school safety are not shared publicly due to security concerns. You may want to contact the EGPD Chief Brown regarding security for schools.
The EGPD didn’t write this opinion piece. Our superintendent of schools did. I’m sure if you ask our EGPD, which I have, they would have a different opinion about armed security in our schools to protect our children than our superintendent does. In fact our EGPD provided much feedback on how to improve our school security a few years back. From what I’ve heard minimal changes have been made based on that feedback. Now is not the time for deflection, Councilwoman.
So Renu, we should just “trust” the politicians? We have no right as parents to know how our kids are protected. That is ridiculous!
This town wants to spend a enormous amount of money… how about spending to protect our children with those who are trained to do it… common sense!
To those recalcitrant individuals attacking the author it is not where such discussion should be directed. It serves no purpose.
It’s time to get rid of these weapons especially for an individual to buy an enormous amount of ammunition.
I know people that own these weapons (multiple) and more disturbing anywhere from 4,000 to 10,000 rounds. As a Vietnam veteran I had pocket bandoliers which one carried about 180 rounds. Even doubling up at the most 360 maybe 400. An immense difference and one that should not be overlooked.
Mental health is just a talking point. At what point will it be determined an individual has an adjustment disorder?
Sending Christmas cards or any holiday cards with the family equipped with assault weapons should be more than justification of people who truly need such an adjustment. Mental health always seems to be a talking point after an unfortunate horrible occurrence. It sadly addresses the needs of those effected.
Every voter should know who the culprits in Congress are. They will not even allow a “cooling off” period to perform an “accurate” back ground check. I am against any individual owning an assault weapon let alone one not even old enough to register for selective service.
Even those convicted of domestic assault have access to these weapons and not to hold the gun manufacturers responsible and the individuals that sell them and the ammunition is beyond my imagination.
A data base detailing the individuals who own these weapons in the very least state/federal is a starting point.And penalties assessed for failure to comply.
Common sense legislation but with a Party that has declared war against Mickey Mouse, LGBTQA? Is there even a possibility? Idolatry, even if divine seems to be morally (by some constitutionally) acceptable but surely not humanity.
After the end of WWII in Europe, Truman, Churchill and Stalin met in Potsdam. Churchill made a comment to Stalin that 8,000,000 deaths (Russian) are a tragedy. Stalin in a mindset I can’t ever imagine said Mr. Churchill one death is a tragedy, 8,000,000 deaths are considered just statistics. We are letting these children, and other individuals sadly become just statistics. How many more deaths will complicity take as statistics?
In “Civil Disobedience,” Thoreau writes, “A minority is powerless while it conforms to the majority.” I think we recently witnessed au contraire in Tennessee.
(“The difficulty lies, not in the new ideas, but in escaping from the old ones.” John M. Keynes)
Well done, Mr. Riccio and Supt Ricca. The superintendent’s graph could be supplemented with one I’ve seen that shows the explosion of mass shootings after the assault weapons ban was allowed to expire.
Hm … allowed to expire by whom ?
I am wondering if your publication takes letters to the editor?
You may submit an LTE to [email protected]. Submissions are not guaranteed to be posted.