Former Kentucky School Administrator Recalls 1997 Shooting

Weekend Edition Sunday host Rachel Martin talks with Bill Bond, a school safety specialist at the National Association of Secondary School Principals. He's also the former principal of Heath High School,in Paducah, Ky., where in 1997, a student opened fire on a prayer circle, killing three students and wounding five others.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin. The tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, strikes an especially resonant chord with people who have endured this kind of violence before. Bill Bond is one of them. Bond is the former principal at Heath High School in Paducah, Kentucky. In 1997, one of his students opened fire on a school prayer group. Three students were killed, and five were wounded, in that shooting. Bill Bond spoke with me yesterday from his home in Paducah; and I asked him what went through his mind, when he heard the news from Connecticut.

BILL BOND: When you've been through these things, and when it happens, you're just overwhelmed with emotions of wanting to try to reach out and help them; and what could you do? And in 12 other cases, I've gone onto the school to see if I can help. But in this situation, I just felt powerless to do anything. I mean, I had no answers whatsoever.

MARTIN: Teachers and students in Newtown are going to eventually go back to school, whether it's at the site of the shooting or not. You had to do the same thing in 1997. You had to somehow help your community get back on its feet and reclaim some kind of normalcy. How did you do that?

BOND: I think you have to really humble yourself and ask the community to support you and to trust you with their kids. It's a powerful thing to ask someone to trust you with the safety of their kids. And there's going to have to be a next day.

MARTIN: What was that next day, the day when your students returned to school? What was that like for you?

BOND: I hugged more kids in that one day when they returned to school than I had in 27 years in education prior to that. But mine was a high school. I feel like with kids at the high school level, they have a sense of understanding what has happened. But with elementary kids, I just can't even comprehend.

MARTIN: You are now someone who thinks about school safety at a national level. You're a school safety specialist with the National Association of Secondary School Principals. There have been multiple school shootings since the one that happened in your school in Kentucky. Is this a problem that can be solved with more security?

BOND: It's a problem that can be solved with more caring. I don't think it's a problem that can be solved with more security. We've made huge strides with cameras and lockdown procedures. But I can't think of anything at Sandy Hook that would have made a difference. All of our security is based on we can deter a person because our force is greater than force and we will ultimately imprison you or we will kill you. But that's not a deterrent to people, the in-school shootings. So, your normal deterrents, what people think is normal deterrents, have no effect on this.

MARTIN: Bill Bond. He's a school safety specialist at the National Association of Secondary School Principals. Mr. Bond, thanks so much for taking the time to speak with us.

BOND: Thank you.

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