Marietta’s superintendent Grant Rivera appeared on the “HLN Weekend Express” program this weekend to describe how to talk to children about tragedy and what he’s doing locally.
His appearance came days after 14 students and three school staff were gunned down at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School by expelled student 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz in Parkland, Florida. Cruz has since confessed to the crime.
“We have to empower children to have conversations not just with their families or with their friends but also with people who are in positions to prevent it,” Rivera said.
The superintendent wrote a letter, a portion of which introduced the HLN segment, to parents the morning after the shooting.
He wrote how his wife, co-host of 94.1’s “The Jeff & Jenn Show” Jen Hobby, asked her husband to hug their children extra tight to try to make it normal as they went to school that morning.
“And the conversations that are important to us are really being aware of those warning signs and not dismissing it as normal,” he said on HLN.
Rivera added: “What makes me so fearful now is that our children have become numb to this type of conversation.”
The small, well-to-do community at the edge of the Florida Everglades has been rocked by the massacre, which came after seemingly all the appropriate bells were rung in regards to the shooting; the FBI has apologized for improperly handling a tip weeks earlier that Cruz would shoot up a school.
“It’s tragic that far too often we can have a conversation after the fact about all the warning signs but we’re not having a conversation beforehand about how we need to be putting it in the hands of people who can prevent it,” Rivera said.
He said the sub-10,000-student school system has its “Life Center” to meet many needs of students and a strong relationship with local police, including frequent training.
Rivera said on HLN that the district ran an active-shooter drill the day before the Valentine’s Day massacre.
“I can look a family in the eye and say, ‘we’re not perfect, we have to do better, but I can promise you we’re not going to sit back and do nothing,’” he said.