How can we address controversial issues such as gun control in our classes in the aftermath of a mass shooting? What can we do to help keep ourselves and our students safe? In this episode, we discuss these and related issues with Jaclyn Schildkraut, a public justice professor who specializes in research on mass shootings.
- No Notoriety – The website of a movement encouraging media to not provide notoriety to the perpetrators of mass shootings
- onePULSE Foundation – The website of a nonprofit foundation that is dedicated to memorializing the victims of the PULSE shootings and to support their families.
- Safe and Sound Schools – the website of a Sandy Hook initiative that provides resources to enhance school safety.
- Schildkraut, J., & Elsass, H. J. (2016). Mass Shootings: Media, Myths, and Realities: Media, Myths, and Realities. ABC-CLIO.
- Schildkraut, J. (editor). (forthcoming, 2018). Mass Shootings in America: Understanding the Debates, Causes and Responses. ABC-CLIO.
- Schildkraut, J. and Glenn W. Muschert. (forthcoming, 2019). Columbine, 20 Years Later and Beyond: Lessons from Tragedy. Praeger.
- Jaclyn Schildkraut’s website
- Jaclyn Schildkraut’s peer-reviewed journal articles
Rebecca: Our guest today is Jaclyn Schildkraut, a scholar who has published extensively on mass shootings, a co-author of Mass Shootings: Media, Myths and Realities as well as two forthcoming books and is currently an Assistant Professor of Public Justice at the State University of New York at Oswego. Welcome Jackie.
Jackie: Thank you, Rebecca and John.
John: Welcome. So our teas today are:
Jackie: I have English breakfast… that brews in four minutes.
Rebecca: I’m trying the Scottish breakfast today.
John: And I have PG Tips.
Could you tell us a little bit about your current and forthcoming books?
Jackie: Yes, so my first book is Mass Shootings: Media, Myths and Realities, and what we really tried to tackle in that book was some of the common misperceptions about mass shootings such that they’re only committed by white males, or it’s a uniquely American phenomenon, or you know there’s certain specific causal factors, just things that are currently propagated by the media and so we try to really address those through scholarly research and empirical findings that we could either confirm or dispel those myths.
The two forthcoming books I have I’m really excited about. The one that I actually just put to bed with the publisher, it’s on its way to print right now is entitled Mass Shootings in America: Understanding the Debates, Causes and Responses, and it’s a really great reference book for high school students and undergraduates, that’s basically like everything you need to know about mass shootings. So we have in the beginning some different essays contributed by experts in the field on topics like guns and mass shootings and terrorism and mass shootings as a hate crime and prevention strategies- that’s the piece that I actually co-authored with Michelle Gay from Sandy Hook and Christina Anderson from Virginia Tech. Then we have an encyclopedia of events for 50 years beginning in 1966 with the UT shooting and going all the way through 2016 with Pulse, and then there’s some additional readings, some key pivotal documents like the Columbine review Commission report, the Virginia Tech review panel report, basically everything you would need for a starting place in research on this topic.
And then the third book is Columbine 20 Years Later and Beyond: Lessons from Tragedy. We kind of took that from my event last year, and what it’s going to be is a 20-year retrospective on the Columbine shootings April 19th of 2019- I’m sorry April 20th of 2019 will actually be the 20th anniversary, and you know when we think about Columbine it’s this very watershed kind of moment. If anybody it gets asked about mass shootings, it’s the first thing that comes to their mind, and so we really wanted to critically look at you know what have we learned over the last 20 years what do we still need to learn and what can we do moving forward. That was that sort of thesis was really kind of born out of this stone that’s in the wall at the Columbine Memorial, which I’ve been to a couple of times and it says there’s this thing called the “wall of healing” and it’s all these different sayings that came out from parents and students and policy makers after the shooting, and there’s this one stone I actually have a copy of it in my office – a picture I didn’t steal the actual stone – but it says “it brought the nation to its knees and now that we’ve gotten back up what have we learned?” And for me I always just kind of persevere in what I’m doing because I don’t ever want the answer to be nothing. And so that’s what I really want to look back is what have we learned in the last 20 years? And where we need to keep going from that because it’s still happening.
Rebecca: How did you end up in this line of research?
Jackie: I’ve always been morbidly curious about… I think death and dying and just sort of these extreme acts of violence, I mean like in eighth grade my social studies fair project was on presidential assassinations, so I’m not really sure, kind of where this all, I think that’s some of my mother’s doing so, I’m gonna blame her but no. Interestingly in 2007, I had kind of like left school, before I finished. I was really young and had no idea what I really wanted to do, and it was the first time I was out on my own so, I think I did what a lot of seventeen-year-old to do and just went crazy and you know I bounced around the mall for a few years and ended up landing in real estate, which I loved and hated all at the same time and then Virginia Tech happened, and one of my good friends from high school and I, we’ve been very fortunate in that the high school we went to had a very large endowment. We all got scholarships off the interest and everything and so we decided we really wanted to give back to the Hokey Memorial Scholarship Fund. So we threw a giant charity party at like the largest club in Orlando, booked a top 25 in the world DJ, promoted the heck out of this thing and it busted. Literally I went ten thousand dollars debt, and I was hysterical crying the next morning some like I’ve never failed at anything in my life that I actually tried to do. And so I went back the next day at you I’m the Dean of the College of Business at University of Central Florida and I was like “please let me back into school I have no idea what I’m doing,” and that sort of led me on my path to to where I am today.
Rebecca: Always interesting to find out how people end up in their discipline.
John: There’s a strong Oswego connection to the University of Central Florida. Chuck Dziuban, the head of – or the former head – of the teaching center is an Oswego graduate, and he’s kept in touch with people here and he’s done some workshops up here in the past for administrators and so on so. And they’re a real leader in hybrid education.
Jackie: Yes, I learned very very well and it’s interesting too, because you know I teach our 200-person intro to criminal justice class here and these kids are like oh, my god 200 kids like what are we doing, and I’m like, you really don’t know pain until you’ve taken a general business class was 750 people and no one has a clue who you are, and so you know – I mean, I’m proud to be a UCF alum and for two of my three degrees and it’ll always hold a special place in my heart but it is very difficult to learn in an environment where you have 66 thousand students. So hybrid is definitely the way to go.
Rebecca: Can you talk a little bit about some of the myths that you refer to in the book? I think there’s – you know a lot of us as teachers right like when there’s incidents and things that happen in the world, you know that comes up in our classes maybe informally and you know it might be helpful to have an idea of what some of the myths are, and maybe how your audiences have responded to the research you’ve done on them.
Jackie: Absolutely. You know I think one of the most common myths that we get, and this is I think probably the most the myth that we’ve covered that’s gotten the most traction actually in the press, is the idea that it’s a uniquely American phenomenon, and the thing is this. We have a very different gun culture in this country that makes it very accessible and this isn’t to go, you know pro-gun or anti-gun. There’s right and wrong on both sides, but we have a very unique and distinct gun culture. We also have a very unique and distinct culture of violence in this country and so it’s almost even when you’re comparing crime rates. It’s comparing apples to oranges because they’re – you’re still not comparing everything all you know – all things being equal, because even one even though one person in Taiwan, equals one person here in America our culture’s are so different, you can’t standardized them. So I think that, you know trying to say that it’s only happening in America is a fallacy. It has happened in countries across the world. It’s happened on six of the seven continents, you know but where it gets really interesting is how we label them here. It’s very easy to call a mass shooting a mass shooting. It’s a spade, a spade. If we look at something like say, like Africa then it’s usually called like genocide. If we’re looking at something like Europe or Asia, then it’s more like terrorism, and that’s actually an interesting thing too, because now what we’re seeing is if we look at things like Pulse or we look at things like San Bernardino, now we’re seeing a sort of blending of terrorism and mass shootings. So while they are happening at a greater frequency in the United States, they’re not necessarily happening in a greater rate in the United States, and so that’s I think one thing you know people see coverage of something like Pulse or a lot recently in Las Vegas and they’re like forty nine, fifty eight people killed like this is only happening in America. It’s not. it’s just how we define it.
And I think the other, you know probably one of the other myths that really gets, you know bad rap is that it’s like only white males, and we know that that’s not true. There’s been much smaller frequency of female shooters. I think there’s been ten solo female offenders and then two husband-wife teams, but it’s very dispersed more so among the males than the women. Very dispersed in terms of their race or ethnicity, and I think the last one that I would pick, is as guns. People constantly think that these are being carried out with like fully automatic rifles and of course they call them assault rifles and so everybody- I actually just saw a thing today in my Google Alerts that said there was like thousands and thousands of pages related to Sandy Hook that was released today and they still are talking about like an AR-15 type weapon, but AR actually stands for Armalite Rifle and it’s not assault rifle, which is a common misperception. So it immediately gives this connotation like we have to ban all assault rifles, but in reality mass shootings are committed more often by handguns- not tremendously more often- but they’re more often committed by handguns than assault rifles. I’m air quoting here.
Rebecca: How do you dispel the myths that maybe students bring to them to your classes and things, you know like, they have a particular mental model. We need to kind of meet them where they’re at and work from there. So what are your strategies for doing that?
Jackie: You know, I think having an open and honest dialogue about, you know what their perceptions are and you know sort of grounding them and like okay well that’s good but here’s what the research says and how do you interpret that and kind of holding them accountable and that says to say if I present you with counterbalancing evidence, are you still going to hold on to this misconception? It’s interesting because I teach a homicide class and one of the things I was told when I wrote a book is assign this in your class and I’m like okay you know far be it for me, but it’s interesting to see because what I do do with them when they read their own they read my book is I have them do a reader blog online so I do a little bit more hybrid because I don’t want them to feel like they have to answer a certain way with me, because I wrote the book. So I kind of step back out of it and let them talk amongst themselves online and reading their blogs, you know about how they – what they took away and what they really understood and how it puts it into context for them you know as I think a really good way to do it. Not that I’m suggesting that everybody on campus buys my book, but I did.
John: But you wouldn’t object.
Jackie: I would not object, no especially the new ones because I’m actually donating all of the royalties so I’m not making any money off of them.
John: What role does the media and social media play in perpetuating these myths?
Jackie: The media is a powerhouse in perpetuating these myths, and you know I think the media do get a bad rap in this situation and part of it is earned and part of it is not earned, you know, because it’s sort of a double-edged sword, right? Here in the United States, the majority of people in this country are never going to experience a mass shooting and so subsequently the media then becomes sort of this conduit of information, and so you’ve got this this sort of demand on the media to pump out information as quickly as possible, which that means that traditional practices they had in place, like gatekeeping, sort of goes out the window. I can remember back in 2000, I think it was 14 it might have been 2013 there was a shooting at a mall in Columbia, Maryland and I’m literally watching this press conference with up with the police chief and he says you know it’s two hours after the shooting finished, and he’s like you know we’re clearing the mall, you know this is what we’re doing, you know this is the steps, we need to clear the mall, we need to locate everybody who may be injured, get them the help they need and so forth, and so one of the reporters said ‘well, is this domestic violence related?’ he goes, ‘I, it’s been two hours. I don’t know the motive’ and so that very next word out the reporters mouth was, this is a domestic violence thing, and so it’s very difficult to kind of reel that back in.
We saw that with Sandy Hook. They immediately said it was the brother, because of the license and for five hours everybody in America thought Brian Lanza was the shooter, you know his Facebook picture was shared something like 10,000 times in five hours, he was getting like death threats online and you can’t really undo that. So I think you know, there’s this thirst for information in this demand for answers and talk and the immediate aftermath, and then that kind of, to try and balance that the gatekeeping gets lost and so there needs to be more of a checks and balances sort of a slowdown and saying we can give you a steady stream of information as long as we know it’s correct,. But you know I think another part of the culpability of the media is letting these events be forgotten two weeks after the Las Vegas shooting I will not forget this it was October 15th and I could barely find any news and this is something where 58 people were killed almost 500 were injured and we’re not talking about it anymore, and it’s like what is going on? So I think that they have a responsibility to the victims just as much as the shooters to make sure that that doesn’t happen that they’re not forgotten.
Rebecca: You know it’s really easy, I think especially in a classroom setting to “other” the media… right? …and lay blame there and you know to talk about it like they’re separate from us, but the reality is that many of us have personal connections to a lot of these situations. So how do you handle, sort of, that balance and classroom discussions around these like really sensitive topic?
Jackie: You know I think respect is a really big thing. I’ve actually had some really interesting…. you know… like six degrees of separation kind of things happen. When I taught my homicide class one of my students who actually graduated in the spring, her cousin was Richard Costello, is, he still is, her cousin is Richard Costello who was one of the students at Columbine. He was shot and paralyzed, and so I found myself being very careful in what I said where I might have been more free, you know always checking in with her like hey, is it okay to talk about this? And I think we all have connections.
For me I have sort of these two different connections. One is Orlando, because that’s where I grew up and I lived there for 13 or 14 years. I consider it my home, and so where I may have been able to compartmentalize before Pulse happened, I definitely can’t now, and so for me, I’ve noticed kind of having to find a new normal. As some of the survivors I work with said, I got welcomed and initiated into the club that nobody wants to be part of. So that’s been really helpful for me to have them to bounce ideas with, but then I also had a friend who was at the concert in Las Vegas and I’ve known this girl since I was in like third grade, and so I literally at one point, I think I had an irrational thought of why are these shooters, you know targeting my friends and it’s not a rational thought but you’re like why does it keep happening and there’s always these connections. So for me I think you know I go in there and I’m really honest with my students and I we were actually supposed to talk about mass shootings the Monday night after Las Vegas then I said we’re not gonna do this. I can’t do it for my own sanity and I think that there’s a much more important discussion we can have than me giving you facts and figures and so the talk that I’m actually giving on Tuesday or next Tuesday I gave to them and I said, I want you to take ownership in your safety and I want you to know what to do if you ever find yourself in this situation and so that’s what we did that night.
John: What would you recommend to students if there is such a situation?
Jackie: You know, I think one of the things that we can all do for our own personal safety and it’s not solely related to mass shootings is, situational awareness. I teach over in Lanigan 101. I’ve got a giant room with seven doors that all open outwards and everything’s bolted to the floor, so if anything happened to that room whether it was a suicide or a homicide or anything. I’m a sitting duck. I can’t do anything. We can’t barricade doors. We have nothing to barricade with. We have nothing to pick up and throw at me because you have backpacks. So I think just making a strategy right when you go into a room, it doesn’t have to be this long drawn-out process just do what we call quick scan, set a plan. Just look around you know where your exits are, know what your game plan is and move about your day, but I think it’s always good to know your own safety. I mean we were taught from a very young age, like when you walk to your car at night you walk in the light or when you’re parking your car at night you park under the light, because people don’t usually victimize people in light. They do it in the dark and so you take those precautions. I think we can use the same situational awareness when it comes to violent crime. We just have to be willing to think about it, which is hard to do because most people want to kind of sweep it under the rug, I mean like no this isn’t gonna happen, but I live this every day.
John: Now to balance that just a little bit the overall homicide rate has been declining for decades. Yet, there’s a general public perception that it’s increased fairly dramatically. That’s not the public perception, and how do we help students realize that?
Jackie: You know one of the things that I found, I’ve always found really interesting is when you look at the news coverage of these events there is a very gaping hole, and that is what is your statistical likelihood of becoming one of those 58 or one of those 49 and, it’s really really low. We’ve done some analysis on it, I think it’s less than one in seventeen thousand, to be involved in a mass shooting, so it’s really really really low but we don’t get told that. In fact in my dissertation, which I actually looked at the media representation of mass shootings in a post Columbine era, one of the things that I coded for was – because I analyzed like 564 news articles – and I coded for statistics and specifically national statistics like what is the crime rate? What’s your likelihood? You know, give me some context and out of 1930 numbers that I coded in that data, three, were national context over twelve years of shootings, and nothing had anything to do with your statistical likelihood of becoming a victim. So I think if we could change the narrative to just at least offer context not that we shouldn’t feel bad about it, not that we shouldn’t have a visceral reaction, but just that we have to keep it in perspective compared to homicide in general or all of violent crime or all of crime in America, when you look at it in the bigger picture we’re talking about like 0.1% of 0.1% of all crimes, but you don’t get that information, and I think if context was offered it might make people feel like they could deal with thing more manageable.
Rebecca: This leads me to think a little bit more about news representations of all sorts of things, right? If you were to help students maybe double-check the news that they’re looking at, like what kinds of questions would you suggest students ask of the things that they’re looking at in the news either, what they’re reading or seeing, so that they kind of know what’s valid, what’s missing?
Jackie: That’s a great question. I think one thing that is always important and we should all be doing is questioning your source. Everybody’s got an agenda, right? And at the end of the day, I understand it as much as the next person that this is a business, and the more viewers they get or the more readers they get the more money they generate through advertising, because people want to go where the people are, and so I understand that. So for me, like one thing I personally do is, if I see it let’s say on – Fox News, then I’ll go check CNN. If I see it on CNN, I’ll go check Fox, and I’ll probably throw MSNBC in the mix, just to be safe but sort of this cross-reference based on different biases, that we know to be present in the media. You know there’s certainly conservative stations. There are certainly liberal stations, or some moderate stations, across referencing. The New York Times is a national standard for research for print, but they’re not flawless. We know that the New York Times takes a liberal skew, so what can we do to balance that out. So I think just really questioning your sources and really asking yourself what do they stand to get out of it if they report it in this manner, and trying, and it’s hard to do, but it’s almost like peeling back an onion, right? You have to peel off all the sensationalism and just kind of focus in on the facts and then make your own opinions, and draw your own conclusions and that’s something I do try to work with my students on.
John: Now you mentioned you teach a class in homicide, what other classes do you teach?
Jackie: This semester I’m teaching our Senior Seminar, which we just redid, so I really like it and this semester. I’m teaching my new class in the death penalty, so it’s like I teach homicide in the morning and the death penalty in the afternoon.
John: Maintaining that…
Rebecca: Some good continuity there.
Jackie: It is! It’s funny because I have students in both classes and I say, listen guys in the morning, we’ll talk about how people get killed, and then in the afternoon I’ll tell you what happens if you kill people. So that part’s really interesting I teach a breadth of courses, I teach our intro to criminal justice, which is university wide and one of my favorite classes, because you do get such, such different viewpoints in there. I teach Crim theory, I’m gonna be teaching, hopefully soon, our new research methods course, that we’re really excited about and we just went to a conference last week, and there was this really amazing presentation on catastrophic criminology that really kind of focuses in, or kind of parallels what I already do, and so I’m hoping to develop a class in that as well.
John: I just got a notification my watch, about six people being dead and fifteen hurt, after a vehicle drove into a bike path near the World Trade Center, so these things do happen. It’s not just guns.
Jackie: No and that’s, you know it’s an interesting thing that you mentioned that, because you know we typically hear in the aftermath of a mass shooting, that if we get rid of all of the guns then this won’t happen, and we know that that’s not true, because we can look at something like what just happened or in Charlottesville, right? Where people are driving cars, and you people only do it of course overseas, but it’s kind of like Ian Malcolm and chaos theory in Jurassic Park… like life will find a way… because if you look at the day that Sandy Hook happened, in China there was a guy who walked into an elementary school in China and knifed 22 kids. Now, none of them fortunately died because a lot of their wounds weren’t as serious, but given the motivation that people will find a way to do it.
Rebecca: Someone still knifed a whole bunch of kids.
Jackie: Exactly someone a whole bunch of –
John: Yeah, it was not the best day for them.
Jackie: But look at it like this, right? We know that criminals all across this country have guns, yet we have laws that prohibit criminals from having guns. So if they’re… if people are determined to do something, they’re going to figure out a way to do it. Like I just depressed everybody with that one.
John: All of a sudden we got really quiet here.
Rebecca: Yeah, I do have another question, I know that you’ve brought in guest speakers into your classes. Can you talk a little bit about how you’ve used guest speakers to talk about some of these issues?
Jackie: Absolutely. I’ve been very fortunate to be accepted, for lack of a better word into a group of survivors who are trying to use their experiences for really positive change. The first person that I had out here was Michelle Gay, that was back in 2015, Michelle’s daughter Josephine was killed at Sandy Hook and Michelle and Alyssa Parker, whose daughter Emily was killed. They formed Safe and Sound a Sandy Hook initiative and they’re really focused on smart, common-sense, preventative measures to help keep school safer, and it’s interesting, because I actually learned about their organization watching the Anderson Cooper one-year anniversary special on Sandy Hook, and I looked up their organization, and because I have like no shame or filter I literally sent her an email and said hi, can we link up and this is what I do and I’ve been working with her for about a little over three years now, as one of her research analysts, which I absolutely love because I do so strongly believe in their mission, and through that I’ve met a number of other people this past spring, we had Frank DeAngelis out. He was the principal of Columbine on the day that it happened, and he came into the presentation with Christina Anderson, who was the most critically injured surviving student at Virginia Tech and so they were sort of able to give two different perspectives of these events, and then this coming spring we have John Michael Keyes coming out. John Michael his daughter, Emily was the student that was killed at Platt Canyon High School back in 2006 in the hostage standoff, and he developed the SRP – the standard response protocol which is a fantastic program. All of the resources are free, I don’t know why more schools are not using this, and so he’s going to come out and do a presentation as well on on the SRP and sort of his experiences that led him there. So I think having resources at my disposal that a lot of other people don’t have, I just try to maximize what I can do to help people learn from them, and help to spread the message that they share, because I do believe so strongly in them.
John: One of the things you’ve mentioned is, that you, in earlier discussions is, that you’re an advocate for the No Notoriety movement. So could you tell us a little bit about that?
Jackie: Absolutely. The no notoriety movement was started by Tom and Karen Teebs, after their son Alex was killed at the Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooting back in 2012, and you know Tom and Karen- I’ve had the opportunity to speak with them and and talk about her strength, and just fantastic individuals, who again are really turning a negative experience into something positive, in the hopes that their experience and their loss can help prevent other people’s loss. And, there’s been some preliminary research that suggests that there’s a contagion effect to mass shootings, such that every time a shooting happens it increases the likelihood that they’ll be copycat events and in a specific period. It’s usually about two weeks, and so Tom and Karen’s No Notoriety campaign which people can look up online, it’s nonotoriety.com, their campaign is basically about limiting the exposure of the shooter and instead focusing on the victims and it’s really common sense stuff that the media could be doing. Like it’s okay to name the shooter, and give this sort of base information, but to continue to just loop their picture or repeat their name every two seconds -it’s not healthy and it’s taking the focus off of the people who need help, who need closure, who need resources, and instead just sensationalizing something that’s already so sensational to begin with. So the no notoriety campaign, like I said, really just focuses on eliminating the exposure of the shooter, and so I really try hard when I talk to the media, which I had to do a lot after Las Vegas, is just to really say, look can you please just not name the shooter, like we get it we know what he did we know who he is. It’s just no, there’s not a need to talk about them anymore.
John: And you’ve been doing something separate from that, or something on the opposite end, on your own social media feeds.
Jackie: So, as I mentioned about two weeks after the Las Vegas shooting, I started to realize that nobody was talking about it anymore, and it infuriated me, because it took us nine years to get from Virginia Tech, which used to be the deadliest mass shooting in the United States to Pulse. It took 16 months to get from Pulse, almost to the day, 16 months to get from Pulse to Las Vegas, and you know, we’re not talking about people that went into a nightclub or went into a school or showed up at their workplace. We’re talking about somebody, who took a trajectory that we haven’t seen since 1966 in the UT shooting, who converted his weapons to automatic and who rained fire essentially down on the city, and so the fact that after two weeks everyone was like- yeah, it’s another mass shooting like, I can’t use language on your show that would allow me to adequately explain how I felt about that.
So for me, what I really wanted to do is focus on the victims, and you know we were a lot of the coverage that I did, you know when I talked to the press, really focused on the guns, or their perpetrator or sort of the occurrence of mass shootings, but he never got asked about the victims, and I started to realize that this isn’t just a number, and I’ve known- I’ve known that for a while that. It’s not just the 13 at Columbine, the 26 at Sandy Hook, the 32 at Virginia Tech, the 49 at Pulse, or the 58 at Las Vegas. These are individuals who are humans, and they had stories to tell, and so what I started doing on, I believe was August 15, October 15th is every day, I go on my social media and I post a picture collage of one of the victims, and then I do separate research and these are pictures that usually are on their own personal Facebook pages, so not the ones the media have circulated, and then I will go on their social media pages and I’ll read a bunch of different articles about them and I’ll write bios, and so that way every day for 58 days we’re still talking about them, and it’s been probably one of the hardest yet most rewarding things I’ve ever done, because I’ve learned so much about these individuals and what a tremendous loss to their society beyond just being one of fifty eight. There’s, there’s mothers, and husbands, and children, and recent college graduates who have their whole life ahead of them, and couples who died together and a husband who basically held his wife as she passed away, and he had survived wars, and you know just reading these stories, and really humanizing them I think is so important, because we as a society, we don’t do that. So, yeah. That’s what I’ve been doing.
Rebecca: I think as an artist, it’s kind of an interesting… Interesting project, and/or an interesting endeavor that you’re on, and it demonstrates that there’s places for kind of every discipline to tap into these kinds of issues, you know.
John: To re-frame them a little bit better.
Rebecca: Yeah, and to share things out and to story tell, and to kind of use their expertise to help get words out. Write about particular people, and to to place value on people and their stories.
Jackie: And I think that’s so important. You know, like I said, I learned so much and what really struck me is, I think it was Saturday. I sat down and I was like wow, I’ve only been doing this for two weeks, I mean I’ve already been doing this for two weeks, and I actually think you might have seen my post, John. I said I’ve done 14 profiles, I have 44 to go. Like let that sink in, that I’m not even a quarter of the way there, and in two weeks I’ll do the same thing. Like, hey, I’ve done four weeks of this, and I’m not even halfway there, and I think it just, it’s really puts into perspective the gravity of the loss, but I think it also speaks to your question a little bit earlier about the role of the media in the power of social media, because we some research that we had previously done really looked at where people’s perceptions of mass shootings, or school shootings had come from, and one of the studies that we did found, that social media and Twitter in particular we’re driving perception. So the more you’re on Twitter, the more you’re likely to think this is a social problem part, probably because of the format of twitter with like headline, headline, headline, headline, but what I have been really noticing in this endeavor that I’ve been doing is the power of getting this information out. I have people who are copying it over onto Twitter or onto Instagram. I have, every post is getting like at least ten shares. It’s getting a lot of likes. I’ve been using like similar hashtags, so it’s #we need to talk about mass shootings, #TheTimeIsNow, #RememberTheVictims, #RememberTheirNames, and #LasVegas and I put that on every single one so that that way, if anybody ever just clicks on it, they’ll see this whole stream, so it’s really a powerful tool.
John: It is.
Jackie: Thank you for following along by the way.
John: Now there’s a lot of research that shows that when students are learning, if there is an emotional connection to the material, they learn more deeply and actually negative emotions can have a stronger impact on long-term recall. Are you finding that when you’re dealing with such emotional topic?
Jackie: It’s interesting to me. I don’t know that anybody will ever, any of my students will ever remember facts or figures, you know and it’s also really interesting, because the more I think about it, no matter how old I get, my students are always 18. It’s crazy especially at intro, like I keep aging every year, they’re all 18. So within a year these kids will have been born after Columbine had happened, and so I see a responsibility in keeping the discussion going, but not I’m not as concerned about facts and figures, like they can Google or Wikipedia that.
John: But might help them remember the concepts that you’re trying to do by tying it to things that have a stronger emotional impact.
Jackie:Oh, for sure. You know I think we’re all passionate about this, in our own way. I think I have a different level of passion about it, because I work with survivors, because my home town was hit, you know and so I think that that that comes across really genuine with them and it makes it so that they want to have that same compassion that I do, and so we’ve had, my students and I have had some very very thoughtful serious discussions about this, and you know about what it means, about what it means in our culture about what we can do, you know to change this, and I hate to have to be the one to tell them – this is gonna keep happening. Um, and so I have to tell them that because it’s true, because I don’t ever want to be the person that lies to my students, but I say let’s not let these people die in vain. Let’s learn from them, and so what can we take away. I have a student right now, who took my theory class last spring and we’re actually writing a policy piece about how we can use the theoretical principles that he learned to make actual policy decisions based on these events. so there’s a practical application with the course material as well, but I think just, you know I’m open with them and I’ll say listen, when it went out, when Las Vegas happened, I said I’m not gonna lecture about this I can’t because it triggered stuff in me, after Pulse but I’ll answer any questions that you have and they’ll ask, and I think that having me as a resource because of what I do helps them.
Rebecca: Really loving what you’re talking about, because I’m hearing so many things that came up in a lot of our reading groups about small teaching, and I’m hearing you know questions driving the learning, I’m hearing you as a faculty member being vulnerable, and kind of being really present, right.
John: And having a passion for the subject and interest and all those things are really important.
Rebecca: I’m hearing storytelling and using narrative, to kind of drive a class forward to get people really interested and engaged, so I think that there’s a lot to learn even if we’re not necessarily teaching the same subject matter about sort of the way that you’re framing, some of these discussions in the way that you’re approaching things.
Jackie: Absolutely, and you know what’s really interesting to me is I’ll have students… I keep… I have very good relationships with most of my students and so a lot of them once they graduate come back – my first group graduate and it was like very emotional. I cried a lot. If they’re listening they’re very missed, but you know people will constantly reach back out to me and be like I think about these things very differently because of you, and I look at them very differently and I listen very critically when I’m, you know, watching the news and I’m thinking about these events, and it’s always funny to me because when my student, my students are so interested in the topic but none of them will ever write their papers on it.They’re like you’re gonna totally know if we’re wrong, and I’m like then just do good research.
John: Which is not a bad strategy anyway.
Jackie: Yeah, no. They won’t tackle it. They’re terrified, but yeah I think just being open and honest with them and like you said being vulnerable. I think it makes us more human to them as teachers and it helps to build that relationship.
John : It makes a more comfortable environment in the classroom when they feel that you’re a human and not just someone in a separate reality.
Rebecca: I just wanted to underscore something that you had said, you said kind of listen critically. I think we talked a lot about critical thinking and critical reading, but we don’t talk a lot about critical listening, or even just listening. So I think, it’s just like, I just thought that as you were talking and I just like latched onto it, because I think it’s something that we don’t talk about often enough and so I’m glad that you brought that up.
Jackie: Oh, thank you. Yeah, I think in our society, especially when we are relying so much in the media, we have to be critical listeners, right? Because like I tell my students – challenge everything that you’re told. Like yes, I have a PhD, and I stand in front of you and they pay me to teach you, but you should still question what I’m telling you. Like go do your own research questions. So if you hear something that doesn’t sound right or makes you go hmm, I don’t really know if I agree with that? That’s okay. That’s good. It’s good to kind of challenge the system and challenge your thinking and and go back and seek out answers on your own, and maybe they’ll confirm what that person said and maybe they’ll turn on its head.
Rebecca: I think some of the other things that you talked about too, in terms of listening, is like listening to voices that are being suppressed in some ways, right? So like the victims voices and making sure that you’re taking the time to listen right, and and to think through some of those perspectives that we might generally overlooked. So kind of building that empathy seems really important to well it’s really interesting so one of the projects that I actually literally just started… in fact, I have a part of it tonight at 7…. one of the things that’s so interesting to me there was a comment that was made when I did Minnesota Public Radio and it it was interesting because I really try to stay away from gun conversations because no one wins in those conversations but he was actually done very tastefully so I didn’t mind participating but somebody who was actually a gun owner came on and he was like you know you have a bunch of people who have never picked up a gun in their life trying to make gun… see… and I’m like, actually, got a point – and then he started to think about mass shooting survivors and specifically I started to think about what I read on Pulse and the City of Orlando managed to raise a lot of money. Las Vegas is going to raise a lot of money. Sandy Hook or Newtown raised a lot of money and there’s these Victims Compensation funds that are created but then the question becomes how do you do, how do you dole that out and it ends up being this really sort of static, you know, math equation like how many times were you shot? where were your injuries how long is your care? and you know and everything gets like a variable coating and then you get a… it’s like Sentencing Guidelines you’re eligible for this much money, and it doesn’t that part seems very cold to me.
Rebecca: so impersonal, and I think like John and I are both like completely cringing as you’re talking right like you can see it in our faces.
John: I am, but on the other hand, that there are forensic economists, and I published some things in forensic economic journals where they evaluate different types of injuries and loss of earnings and so forth because there is a need for different levels of compensation based on the extent of the damages, but that doesn’t capture all the damage.
Jackie: But what’s really important when we’re talking about survivors and victims is we typically think of it in this very dichotomous way: did you die or were you shot? ….and where this really kind of caught my attention was when Christina came here back in March and she and Frank and I were out to dinner and she was telling me a story about her classroom and she was in the classroom in Virginia Tech where the shooter ended up committing suicide and all of the people in her room were shot except one person. Some of them died and some of them lived, but one person did not get touched by a bullet. And because he wasn’t physically injured he got way less resources than all of the others whereas he saw the same things, heard the same things, experienced the same things, in an emotional state, and so that kind of got me thinking we don’t think about survivors in as much of a layering as we should, right? What about all the police officers who have to sit there listen to cell phones ringing and ringing and ringing while people are on the other end trying to find their loved ones? What about hospital personnel? They don’t train for this. I mean, they do, but they don’t because there’s no amount of preparation that will ever prepare you for seeing a body with eleven gunshots in it or having to carry people you know room by room because you have nowhere to put them because it’s this huge situation. What about the counselors that are counseling people, right? or what about the 22,000 people who were at that concert that witnessed what was going on? and so I started to really reconsider survivors very differently and so one of the things that I’m working on right now is I’m interviewing survivors of mass shootings to ask them what their needs are because no one ever has I checked the literature there’s a little bit of stuff on PTSD but no one’s ever said what did you need in the aftermath? What resources would have helped you? What did you have that worked? What did you have that didn’t work? …and it just it was like a why are we not doing this? If you want to know what survivors need, ask the survivors. Yeah, so that’s actually a project that I’m working on right now with a trauma psychologist who’s out of the Denver metropolitan area and he handles a lot of these big cases so I’m very fortunate to be working with him.
Rebecca: Sounds like a great project and again like really kind of rethinking the way that we think about things which such a valuable thing to spend time on.
Jacke: It’s interesting to you so far I’ve interviewed two people on my third interview this evening the first person that I interviewed was a student who was in Columbine when it happened but was in an internal room and managed to lock down and you know she certainly has had very different experiences then than other students would have had, what you know based on where they were out in the school. And the second interview I had was with one of the parents whose child was killed at Columbine, and it was interesting talking to her because, you know, not only was she talking about her own personal experiences but how the siblings of the child you know didn’t really get any resources, everybody had focused on the parents and kind of forgot about the other children and so it’s really I mean even though I’ve already only done two interviews so much there that I think you know in the long term we’re going to be able to make a really big difference to help reallocate resources so that everybody’s getting what they need.
John: Now we live in a world with increasing polarization on almost every issue when you look at distributions of preferences or beliefs and so forth and you mentioned some issues that you try to avoid, but in the classroom some of those might come out. How do you deal with people who have very biased views who only listen to Fox News? Who only listen to MSNBC or something similar?
Jackie: So that’s a really interesting question and it kind of brings me back to my job interview cycle so I did five on-campus interviews and as soon as everybody found out I studied mass shootings, the number one question I was asked on the job market was, what’s your stance on gun control? And I went it’s not irrelevant to me getting this job, it’s like, what does it matter? And it got me kind of thinking because I interviewed at very southern schools. I interviewed many northern schools .I interviewed at liberal schools. I interviewed a conservative schools and so everybody was sort of waiting for me to give him this answer. And so my sort of response and her response was: my job as a researcher is to be able to see both sides of this argument and find a common ground and I’ve always really I think been able to do that quite well if you actually look at what the gun control camp and the gun rights camp are saying, they’re saying the exact same thing with one critical difference… Both of them are saying we’re totally cool with background checks… like we understand they need to keep the hands out of the guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them. The difference is is that the gun control camp wants to say the gun caused the problem and the gun rights camp is saying oh, sorry, yeah the gun rights camp is saying it’s an inanimate object, that’s not true and so one wants to criminalize the gun and the other doesn’t and if they could just put that one difference aside and listen to each other, they might actually make some progress. But they don’t, and so it has come up in class a number of times one of the one of the questions is well why don’t we arm teachers or students and okay let’s talk about this. I said I’ve been in [Lanigan] 101… don’t think I really want any of my freshmen armed, that’s just me, you know some of them are probably fantastic markspersons and they can practice that out on a range somewhere away from me. But it’s interesting, I said let’s talk about the practical side of this right so what I’ll do is I will usually have four students come up and I always joke with them I’m like don’t make gun hands because you like the little kids who like chewed their chicken nuggets into the shape of guns and got expelled. He said don’t make gun hands because I don’t want us to all get in trouble but I’ll go like put your arms out and they basically are making a square and I will have sent somebody out of the room before I do this and I have them come back in and I say do me a favor tell me who’s the shooter and they’ll look at me and go I have no idea. I go, guess who doesn’t either, law enforcement when they respond. I said so you could actually be a good Samaritan, but you’re gonna get shot because they think you’re the shooter. I said the other… you know… the other practical considerations I said I’m not saying that this is right or wrong I said but let’s look at what can go wrong. So we know that citizens with concealed carry don’t get as much training as law enforcement. That’s not that’s not a Republican or liberal statement that is a fact, and so if we look back in 2012, ironically also in New York City, there was a shooting at the Empire State Building and police responded and they shot and killed the perpetrator and they accidentally shot nine bystanders in the middle of Manhattan, and these are people that are trained to fire their weapons in very high-stress, high-stakes situations. Again it doesn’t exist in a vacuum, things happen, I said but these are people who get way more training than you do so what’s the practical implication of that?
John: So forcing them to develop their critical thinking skills, focusing on empirical issues and real-world problems rather than their preconceived notions is the focus.
Jackie: Right and I think it’s important, you know, and I do try to take especially with this issue because like I said there’s no way to win on this one, I really do try take a very neutral standpoint. I think when you’re making these kinds of arguments they can come across somewhat value-laden in. I’m for gun control. And I’ll always tell them there’s plenty of people in this country I’m okay with being with a gun. There’s plenty of people I don’t want to be near if they have a gun, you know, otherwise with neither bombs or anything I just probably wanna be near them. But I’m sure they’re all fantastic people though, but I look at it from a very practical standpoint, like what can go wrong here, you know? …And if we think about like having guns on campus what if we have a suicidal student? and you know one of the things I heard a Columbine because there was a lot of, like, really good presentations that were there, and it’s not always a shooting. There was at Stanley Lake High School a few years ago which is in a neighboring County to where Columbine is located… there was a kid named Vince Net who was sitting in the cafeteria really struggled with depression and some other issues basically took a water bottle full of lighter fluid dumped in on his head and lit himself on fire in the middle of the cafeteria. You’re not only dealing with this one student you’re dealing with everybody who’s seen him. So when I ask them things like that it’s not only is it what’s the implication for this one particular student what is the implication for everybody around? and the same question with, you know, not only police responding and trying to figure out who’s the shooter, other good Samaritans could think that you’re the shooter working with the other shooter or god forbid you’re swinging a gun around trying to take them out and you take out a bunch of citizens so I’m just asking them to think critically before they make a decision like that.
Rebecca: so one of the last things that we usually ask-
John: sorry before we do that, one of the things we want to ask is there have been so many emergency response systems put in an emergency alert systems at on campuses, have they had any positive impact?
Jackie: If they are used. You know one thing about systems is it’s not wholly sufficient to just have a system, you have to practice it. And you have to practice it regularly so that it becomes like second nature, you know. I think that that’s something we can always improve upon whether we’re here at a workplace or here at school or in a professional workplace setting or at the mall or wherever- we should always just be taking stock and taking ownership in our own personal safety. You know there have been instances where things like “safe to tell” (which is an app where students can anonymously report that they know that these things are going to happen) has been extremely effective in averting rampages. People don’t snap right, they decide, actually is what somebody said at Columbine they said they don’t snap, they decide and before that decision comes or when that decision comes there’s usually an element of leakage and so you can look at almost any shooting and there are clear warning signs and of course hindsight is 50/50 but there’s also been a number of instances where people took those warning signs very seriously and reported them and were able to avert rampages. So, whether it’s an emergency notification system during a crisis which we know didn’t work the way it was supposed to do in Virginia Tech… it did in Sandy Hook, you know. He had a very short amount of time before you know and everybody was doing what they were supposed to do that day that as many people that died there more could happen if they haven’t done what they did. We know that there’s deficiencies but we know that one of the biggest efficiencies is really just not practicing and not utilizing your system and I always tell my students you know growing up in Florida I’m really good at hurricanes, like I could do a hurricane like it’s nobody’s business. And I always tell him I said planning and preparation they always think this is really funny but I said it’s like SpaghettiOs and they go: “whatever do you mean?” and I said when you grow up in Florida and a hurricane is gonna come everybody like rushes the store and like for water and plywood and all of the usual hurricane supplies but when your power goes out you have enough food. So you get SpaghettiOs or as we grew up calling it “crap in a can” and because you just get like a manual can opener and you can basically eat it right out of can you don’t have to heat it up or anything and I said so you’ll buy a bunch of cans of SpaghettiOs and then they will sit like Spam or Twinkies in your pantry for years because you did it’ll be good and they’ll still be fine because hurricanes are inevitably natural disasters much like, in their own sort of way, mass shootings are and so they won’t change course or you know they’ll jog north or south and I lived through both Hurricane Charlie and Hurricane Andrew jogged South at the last minute and so we didn’t get the eye and then Hurricane Charley it was supposed to hit Tampa so they evacuated everybody into Orlando where I lived and then it came right up through the state through Orlando and everyone’s like we could have stayed in Tampa but I always say it’s better to have the SpaghettiOs and not need them then need the SpaghettiOs and not have them, and that’s the same with our training in our systems, right? It’s better to practice them and never have to use them than to need them and have them not be there we’re good.
Rebecca: So the last question we always ask is, you know, what what are you gonna do next? You’re doing so much… what are you doing next? It sounds like a lot of that’s already in the way.
Jackie: it is. You know, right now my heart is really really in the survivors’ project because I feel a sense of responsibility in that these individuals who don’t know me from a hole in the wall and are going on the recommendation of a couple of people that I happen to know are really willing to open up and share their stories with me because they want to save other people and that’s a responsibility that I take extremely seriously. You know, I’ve always said that if I can save one life and what I do it will all have been worth it… you know… the crying and the emotional ring you know cuz it’s not easy to do what I do, but it’s rewarding because you know I have affirmation from the survivors that I’m doing what needs to be done and I’ve gotten it even just in the last couple weeks as I’ve been signing people up for their interviews they said we don’t understand why nobody’s ever asked us but we’re so appreciative that you’re doing it because it needs to be done so that’s a responsibility I take so seriously and so I think really where my passion is. …and also like I said this Columbine book is really kind of the other… has the other half of my heart, so when we sat down I’m actually writing the book with my mentor Glenn Muschert who’s at Miami University of Ohio and when we sat down to write the book I said you know I said it feels really wrong to make money off of this like I don’t want to I’ve never gone I mean we we all know this in academics you don’t get here to be rich I hope not I mean I hope one day I’m rich but it won’t be from this um but you know when we got our first royalty check on the first book we were like we thought we’d never see a royalty check like we didn’t really understand how it worked it was a couple hundred dollars I mean it was like great dinner, pair of boots… like awesome but we started to really talk about it and I was like this just doesn’t feel right… and so I got ahold of Frank and I said listen you know Glenn and I have been talking and you know we’re writing this book and it’s really important for us to get back to the Littleton community and I said so we would like to donate the money to the Columbine Memorial Foundation to help maintain the memorial so that future generations can learn from it the way that we have and I mean he and the board president Rick Townsend whose daughter Lauren was killed at at Columbine were great about it and you know it’s not gonna make them rich and it’s not gonna build a new memorial or you know it might not even cover all of their expenses for a year but it’s it’s giving back to a community that really deserves it and so when that happened I then made the decision on the second book I said I don’t really want that money either I mean like who gives money away like it’s like this but I said just doesn’t feel right like I don’t want to profit off of other people’s loss and so I actually reached out to the onePULSE foundation which was founded by Barbara Poma who is the owner… was the owner… of Pulse and she she still owns the memorials… the building …and so they want to establish a permanent memorial and so I had all of the the royalties from the second project redirected to them so I think you know just really trying to write a good quality book that gets the reception that my first book did so that it will make as much money for these communities as I can that’s really kind of where my goal is and then I think after that I’m just gonna take a nap [Laughter] very rewarding.
John: Well, thank you.
Jackie: Thank you guys so much for having me. This was so much fun and thank you for my my English tea breakfast… breakfast tea that’s ready in four minutes.