A Kids Book About: The Podcast

Crystal Talks About School Shootings

Episode Summary

Crystal Woodman Miller, author of A Kids Book About School Shootings and A Kids Book About School Shootings for Survivors, talks about how to create a safe space to discuss/process school shootings and shares tools for how to manage our emotions.

Episode Notes

Crystal Woodman Miller, author of A Kids Book About School Shootings and A Kids Book About School Shootings for Survivors, talks about how to create a safe space to discuss/process school shootings and shares tools for how to manage our emotions.

A Kids Book About School Shootings (view book)

A Kids Book About School Shootings for Survivors (view book)

Full Book Description:

School shootings are a tragic reality. And while they’re not as common as they seem, they are still very real, and so is the fear, anxiety, and trauma that comes with them—even if you’ve never actually experienced one. This book will help grownups and kids better understand school shootings and encourage us to be prepared while reminding us that we should never let the fear of the what ifs take over our lives.

About the Authors:

Crystal Woodman Miller is an author, speaker, Columbine shooting survivor, mental health advocate, and warrior of hope who encourages others in the challenges they face. She’s also the creative director of making magical memories for her three kids and husband and attempts to love others like she has been loved by God.

*If you want to be on a future episode of A Kids Book About: The Podcast or if you have a question you’d like us to consider, have a grownup email us at listen@akidsco.com and we’ll send you the details. 

Episode Transcription

A Kids Book About: The Podcast

S2 EP23, Crystal Talks About School Shootings

Matthew: A quick note: This episode is about a topic that might be sensitive to young listeners. The content is appropriate for listeners ages 5 and up and does not include explicit or graphic language, but it's probably best to listen to this episode with a trusted adult in case you have questions. (Questions are always a good thing to have!)

If you do not feel safe in your school or you suspect that there is a threat to the safety of you and your classmates, please contact your school administrator immediately. Every student has a right to feel safe in their learning environment, and your principal, head of school, or administrator will value your courage in speaking up, as we all play a role in the safety of our school community.


Matthew: What is a school shooting?

Avery: A school shooting is obviously an attack, um, from an outsider in a place of learning, usually involving firearms. 

Crystal: Well, basically what we are talking about when we are talking about a school shooting is this idea of anyone that has a plan to come into a school, whether that's a elementary school, a junior high high school college, with a plan to hurt or kill others.

So that's really the, the most simple, basic definition. 

Matthew: Welcome to A Kids Book About: The Podcast! I’m Matthew. I’m a teacher, a librarian, and I’m your host. The voices you heard just a moment ago were from Avery and Crystal.

Each week we talk about the big things going on in your world with a different author from our A Kids Book About series. 

Crystal: Hey everyone. My name is Crystal Woodman Miller and I am a mom of three amazing kids. 11, six, and five. So very, very busy. But one of my favorite things to do for my kids is, um, make magical memories. So I'm constantly creating scenes and doing art projects and crafting, and, and we're always out on adventures. That's one of my favorite things. I'm a wife to an amazing husband, Pete.

And I am also the author of A Kid's Book About School Shootings, as well as A Kid's Book About School Shootings For Survivors. 


Matthew: We are going to walk slowly through this topic of school shootings. I want to say that to you upfront. 

We’re going to answer your questions, but we’re also going to talk about some things that don’t have answers. 

We’re going to talk through some difficult feelings, but we’re also going to explore how, sometimes, even safety practices and drills can cause big, difficult feelings. 

I’m going to spread this conversation over two episodes. Today, we’ll talk broadly about school shootings so that you can get a better understanding of what they are and how you can prepare should you be in a threatening situation. 

I hope that never, ever happens to you. Or to my kids. Or to any of the kids who have ever come through my library. Or, frankly, to any kid at all. 

But school shootings do happen, which is why we’ll devote next week’s episode to survivors and what it looks like to support those who have experienced a school shooting.

For now, let’s start with the most basic question: Why do school shootings happen?

Crystal: You know, I believe that that question of “Why do school shootings happen?”, I think that's the million dollar question. 

I think if we actually knew the answer to that question, that we would be able to put an end to them. That we would see, these, this really it's become an epidemic. An epidemic is something that spreads like wildfire, something that, that is very commonplace, that takes place more frequently than we would than we would hope.

And I think the reason for that is because there's a lot of people trying to figure that out. There's a lot of people trying to find an answer to that question as to why school shootings happen. And there's a lot of really smart people and a lot of people who are working to that end, but, but, but we don't know. 

And I think that's, that's, what's hard is that we don't have a definitive answer. We don't have an actual answer for that. 

And I know that I am working towards that, and there are many other people who are, who are working to answer that question so that we can, we can put it, put an end to these. So that people no longer have to live in fear that something like this could happen to them.

Matthew: School shootings are awful, horrific, and, frankly, it’s hard to imagine a worse crime than someone going into a safe place for children, a place of learning and of community. And for that someone to cause such devastating harm and disruption.

Schools around the world and law enforcement are working to try to prevent school shootings from happening. But it’s hard to stop something from happening when the crime and motivation is so difficult to understand and to predict.

Crystal: I think it's, it's similar to, to the question we just discussed and, and that is, you know, I do believe there are ways that we can see prevention, but I think if we actually had the, the complete full answer to that, that we would then have the tools to actually prevent them. 

And so again, there's a lot of work being made, both in the, you know, on, on policy and, and laws, but also in the mental health space and families in education. I mean, it's a very multifaceted problem and I believe that it requires a multifaceted response. That it really requires getting all of those people together who work in all of these different areas and bringing everybody together to have that conversation. 

Again, it's, it's, yes, a conversation between an adult and a kid, but it's also a conversation between all of the people who are trying to prevent these things, because I think, um, there, yes, there's a lot of division right now, but I think everybody is more on the same page than we are than we are than we are not. And I think ultimately we all want the same thing and that is safety for our kids. Safety for ourselves in these public spaces.

Matthew: It’s time we take a break. And when we return, Crystal talks about how hurt can drive people to make hurtful decisions. But that finding and creating spaces where we can normalize sharing our feelings may be one step toward a different future for us all. That’s coming up right after this quick break. 


Matthew: Welcome back to A Kids Book About: The Podcast. On today’s episode we’re talking about school shootings with A Kids Book About author Crystal Woodman Miller.

Let’s check in before we go any further into this conversation, okay? Listeners, it’s important that we stop and check on how we’re feeling. What feelings are coming up as you’ve been listening to Crystal share? 

What things is it making you think of? How are you feeling in this moment? What are your shoulders doing? What is your neck doing? What is your body doing? 

It is okay if you need to take a break from this conversation. If your body is telling you that it needs a break, listen. Take a walk. Go out in the sun. Hug a pet or a family member or a friend or a tree or a backpack or whatever you need.

Can I tell you a secret? This episode was really hard for me to make. I had to take a lot of breaks because talking about this topic is hard. And I needed to make sure that I took care of myself first, so that then I could come here to help support you and your grownups in exploring this topic.

Crystal was mindful of this, too, all throughout our conversation. In fact, the idea of creating safe spaces came up several times in our interview.  

Crystal: I think the most important thing we can do is create space where, us as adults, um, you know, us as the grownups and the kids, we create a safe space where we can continue to have a conversation about this. 

Because, as we know, shootings have dominated headlines and therefore it really takes over the minds of both adults and kids alike. And, and we have this constant worry of, “What, what if? What if it happens to me? Or could this happen to me?” 

Nobody should have to go to the grocery store or go to a movie theater or go to a concert venue and especially go to what they consider a safe space, which is school, wondering if. Something like this could happen to them.

And I think that's, that's just heartbreaking that we live in a day and age and a culture where we have to even ask ourselves that question. Where parents, um, where adults, rather, are dropping kids off at. School and they're, they're kissing them on the front door steps and giving them hugs and wondering if it's the last time they'll ever see somebody again. It's horrifying

But you are, you are exactly right, Matthew. I believe that we have to continue to have an open honest dialogue about this. We have to create a safe space for kids to ask questions without judgements. And, um, just to create that, that space. 

And you know, what I often tell adults is the best way we can have this kind of conversation with kids is not by sitting around the, the dinner table. Sure, sometimes that's important, but we enter into their space. We get to play with them. Child-led play where they tell us what they wanna play. Or if it's with older kids, you know, we can take 'em for coffee or do something like that. We'd be amazed at how the conversation just is, is so natural. 

Matthew: Don’t you just love that?! Crystal reminding us grownups of the importance of entering into your spaces. Of being open to letting you lead the way. Letting you help to guide us through your questions. And also, to be able to sit with the questions and, as a grownup, say, “I don’t know. I don’t know why that happens. But I can share how it makes me feel and what it makes me think about.”

Crystal: You know, I am so thankful for this space on this podcast to have this conversation, because these questions of why does a school shooting happen? Can they be prevented and why would a shooter do something like this? I mean, yes, they are incredibly complex questions that may not have a perfect answer. But again, these are the questions that kids and adults are asking.  And so I think it's really important that we make this space to, to talk about these things. 

And so, again, you know, I there's when you look at the history of school shootings, it's very hard to find the one thread that is, that is consistent in every shooter. So it makes it very difficult to how the, how the professionals put it is “profile”. That means kind of, um, figure out the commonalities of why a shooter does something like this. 

And it's because people are complex. We don't know people's history. We don't know their stories. We don't understand their mental state. We don't know what it is they're going through. 

So really that's my, my first point is I think so important because we don't know somebody else's story. We don't know what somebody else is going through. I think it's so important that we continue to look out for the disenfranchised, for those who are, who, who are on the outside, who are kind of marginalized. You know, those who sit by themselves at the lunch table? Those who don't have a lot of friends, those who keep to themselves, that we keep finding ways to love them, to bring them in, to show them respect and kindness and tolerance. 

But I think just on a human level, I think we all can understand it and really agree that we've all gone through really difficult, really painful things. We all have a unique story, our stories matter, but, um, I think just on a very human level, hurt people, hurt people. That's a saying that we sometimes hear, and that means that people are hurt and we don't understand why. But for whatever reason, they think that acting out as a shooter is their only is their only answer. Is the only way out of the pain and the hurt and the anger that they're feeling.

We don't understand. We don't know why it's not okay. I mean, shootings should not happen. They are not okay. It's not okay for somebody to be a shooter. But for whatever reason, somebody feels as though this is the only answer. This is the only solution to the pain that they're feeling. 

But I want, I want kids to understand. just because you feel angry or just because you feel sad or just because you've, you've been through something difficult, it doesn't mean you are going to become a shooter.

Those things are normal. There are emotions that are true for every human being, but there are some people who don't get the help that they need. They aren't supported. They feel really angry and really hurt. And they believe in their minds that this is the only way. 

I also think, um, and again, I'm just speculating here because I do not have the answers and I am not a psychology expert. I'm not. Um, but I'm simply speculating knowing what I know as a human. 

Matthew: We don’t know what motivates shooters to cause terror and to cause harm, pain, and injury, or even death. But, as Crystal reminded us, we do know what it’s like to feel. 

And you may also know what it’s like to feel like you do not have anyone to talk to about how you feel. To help you. To give you advice. Or to just listen. To see you. To hear you. To know and love and accept you.

Crystal: I think we also have this desire to be known, to be seen, to be heard, to be accepted, to have that, that sense of belonging. And I think for some people, they think that this is their, their way to be known and to find a place of belonging. And so they act out of that place and again, it doesn't make it right. It doesn't make it okay. It, there there's, that's not a justification. It's simply to maybe help us understand what's going on in somebody's mind that could do something like this. 

Matthew: Listeners, I’m going to bring our time together to a close for now. We’ll pick up on this conversation again next week, as Crystal talks about school shootings from the perspective of a survivor.

I am not with you right now, at least, not in your physical space. But we have been sharing this virtual space together and I want to check in with you before letting you go. 

How are you feeling about what we discussed today? How does thinking about the topic of school shootings make you feel? 

As you consider your answer, Avery, a listener in Maryland, offers this response:

Avery: Um, I haven't, um, like heard anything, um, in Maryland, but I know there has been some that have occurred. I've usually, when I watch the news, I hear more about ones in. Um, other states, but even when hearing that can be something scary. And I think it's even scarier to think that it can happen anywhere. And it's a place of learning, so I feel like we should be focused on that rather than, um, worried about what could happen.

Matthew: Avery is a family friend. And when I think about school shootings, it makes me really, really angry and it makes me feel protective. 

I’ve taught a lot of kids and have worked in a lot of schools. I don’t want anything… anything to cause harm to the kids in my life. And I don’t want those kids to have to worry that something like this could ever happen to kids like them or in a school like theirs.

Crystal: You know, personally, when I think about a school shooting, it absolutely breaks my heart.

What I went through when I was 16 years old, when I was just a kid, I hoped and prayed that it would be the last time that anyone would have to experience what myself and my classmates did. Nobody should have to experience something so traumatic, something so tragic, something that changes your life completely forever. 

And so whenever I hear in the news that another shooting has happened, that another school shooting has happened, I don't think about myself. I think about those kids, those teachers, the families, the community, the far-reaching impact that it has on every single person. 

And I understand and recognize that now they have to walk through a journey of healing, a journey towards finding hope and healing in their own lives, which is a lifelong journey. You know, as much as we wish we could go back to the people that we were before the shootings happened, it's not, it's, it's not something that we can do. And so therefore we have to kind of find how to live in the new normal, which is really, really hard. 

And that's true regardless of what we go through. Whenever we go through something difficult, we have to find the way to pick up those broken pieces, to find healing, to find hope, and to find life on the other side. 


Matthew: Thank you to Crystal Woodman Miller, author of A Kids Book About School Shootings, for joining us today. And special thanks to Avery for lending their voice to this episode.

Avery: Hi, my name is Avery I'm 16 years old and I live in Maryland. 

Matthew: Special thanks, as well, to the Kids Listen community and, specifically, to Alli, Meredith, Jody, Mick, and Melissa for their support as I wrote this episode.

Want to be on a future episode of A Kids Book About: The Podcast? Write to me or record a message and email me at listen@akidsco.com

A Kids Book About: The Podcast is written, edited, and produced by me, Matthew Winner, with help from Chad Michael Snavely and the team at Sound On Studios. Our executive producer is Jelani Memory. 

And this show was brought to you by A Kids Co. 

Follow the show wherever podcasts are found and check out other podcasts made for kids just like you by visiting akidsco.com

Join us next week as A Kids Book About author Crystal Woodman Miller returns for a conversation about survivors and school shootings.