Mass shootings spark gun debate

Former Cleveland teacher tells story of 1989 shooting


Lindhurst, Olean, Sandy Hook, Cleveland — among the many schools that lost lots of students and a bit of hope. On Jan. 17, 1989, six students from Cleveland Elementary School died and 32 more were injured. Such a shooting left more than just wounds on bodies, it left wounds on the hearts of many young children as well as adults. For former teacher Julie Schardt having to identify one of her students lying in a pool of blood sparked something in her that led her to want to make a change.
“It was 29 years ago but I could still remember it,” Schardt said. “It wasn’t something I could just forget.”
After the shooting in Tehama County Schardt came to campus to speak to students about her story and the actions she’s taking against gun violence.
The horrific scene not only left Schardt traumatized, but she came to a point in her life where she felt that she didn’t want to live in a place that held nightmares. It led her to want to do something that would prevent gun violence, something that would make a change in the lives of many. Soon after the incident happened she and others started the Cleveland School Remembers Brady Campaign. The CSR group started as a group of six colleagues who helped support one another. In the winter of 2012 the group expanded after the Sandy Hook shooting. As a whole, their main goal was to promote programs that help prevent any further gun violence in communities.
“We needed to do something,” Schardt said. “This was one step further into working against gun violence.”
A bystander of the scene that day started to tear up as she remembered the event. First the gunshots, then the screams, and finally the sirens. Niki Smith, a member of CSR who also spoke with Schardt that day, said that the shooting affected not only the school but the entire community. She stands alongside Schardt helping to prevent such a thing to happen again.
“All I could think was, ‘How can we stop it? It’s not okay,’” Smith said. “We shouldn’t have to live in this type of environment.”
Smith works with different types of art therapy letting people draw out how they feel. She said that it was easier for students to express how they were feeling by drawing a picture.
“Statistics are important, but stories are important too,” Smith said. “This helped them tell their stories.”
Schardt remembers right after the event gathering all of her students into her classroom reading “Two Bad Ants” to them, a book she says she hasn’t been able to read since that day. One of her students told her that a classmate of hers was dead yet, she didn’t believe it until she did a headcount and realized she was one student off.
“It was like I was having an out-of-body experience,” Schardt said. “When they asked me to identify her, I couldn’t.”
Schardt said that 30,000 people are killed by guns every year, which is what drives her to keep this campaign going strong. She hopes to decrease that number. Incidents like Cleveland and Sandy Hook make people wonder, “What if it was me?”
For sophomore Valencia Flores she says she wouldn’t know what to do in such a situation.
“I feel like schools should try to be safer,” Flores said. “If a school shooter were to come onto campus no one would know.”
Flores also said there should be more drills to prepare students for situations that involve shootings. She says if they were enforced more there would be fewer deaths.
“Those kids at those schools didn’t know what to do,” Flores said. “It’s a terrible way to go.”
With the CSR campaign Schardt and Smith hope to help people heal and recover from such strategies while still making the community safe. By working with legislators and law centers through their campaign both Schardt and Smith feel they’re close to achieving their goal.
“There’s always going to be guns in our society,” Schardt said. “But kids should not have to worry about it.”