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Opinion – On Healing

by Dr. Brian Ricca, Montpelier Superintendent of Schools
It was a tremendously difficult week in Montpelier Public Schools. A life was lost on the campus of Montpelier High School. Nate Giffin was a student in our school system and his mother and father are established members of the Montpelier and greater Vermont community. Many in our school and local community were touched personally by this tragedy.
It is natural to have questions about this sad situation and to try to make sense of this. During this process, I urge everyone to remember that before we can truly make any judgments, we must walk in the shoes of those we are judging. We will never know what caused this situation to enfold the way that it did. In addition, we will never know exactly what transpired that caused it to end so abruptly.
What we do know is that there were real human beings that were involved from the start. Nate was a student of Montpelier Public Schools, doing his best to be in the world. The employees and members of the Vermont State Employees Credit Union were just going about their day on a Tuesday morning. Our School Resource Officer Matt Knisley was leaving Montpelier High School, heading out to meet with a student. The students, faculty and staff of MHS were having a typical day, following a three-day weekend. The tremendous number of law enforcement officials who descended upon our community were in the various parts of our state when all our paths came together.
Real human beings trying to make sense of a situation that makes very little sense. Real human beings trying to move forward, while struggling to answer the question “Why?” Real human beings who have many, many questions that may never be answered.
Despite the lack of answers, the reality remains that on Tuesday, January 16, 2018, a family lost a son, a school was locked down, and a community was stunned by the second violent loss of life in as many years. It is natural to point fingers and try to assign blame; we must resist that urge. What lessons can we learn from this? How can we recommit our educational community to building, cultivating, and maintaining relationships as the foundation of the work we do? Push beyond the instinct to blame. Instead, find the courage to begin to heal.