Caring for the Messengers

This past weekend Sue Klebold, the mother of Dylan, one of two young men responsible for the horrific tragedy at Columbine, was interviewed on ABC’s 20/20 Friday night. Her book will be released this week. For the families of the victims of Columbine, and many other victims and survivors of mass shootings, it was a tough weekend. Every time a shooting happens of any type the people who were impacted whether they lost a loved one, were injured themselves, or were there, relive their experiences. That includes the people who tell their stories, the journalists.

The general news consuming public makes an assumption that because gathering the news is their job, traumatic events don’t affect the reporters and photographers. Just because it is their job doesn’t mean jourmalists are immune to human emotions. That would be like saying soldiers don’t deal with PTSD or emotional issues because it is their job. Nothing could be further than the truth.

Thanks to the work of the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma and several studies on the subject, more and more journalists are finding the support they need. Dr. Anthony Feinstein published his book in 2003, Journalists Under Fire. The book was the result of his study of war correspondents. He found a significant minority of war correspondents meet the criteria for PTSD.

Dave Cullen, a reporter and the author of the book Columbine, wrote an incredibly open, honest, sometimes painful, look at the pain and emotions he experienced during his time covering the Columbine tragedy and in researching his book. Each time there is a shooting he revisits his grief. In his article in the Daily Beast he gives us all a glimpse at the grieving the survivors of these types of mass shootings revisit each time another one happens.

I’ve written about my call to support journalists and others here before. Moving forward when people question me about why I feel called to support journalists and why journalists would need a chaplain, I’ll point to this very powerful and personal account.

My hope in writing this reflection is that the next time you read a story, watch a report, or listen to a story on the radio that discusses a horrible tragedy, you’ll think not only of the victims but the people who respond to the story. The journalists don’t just write about the stories, but are also deeply impacted by what they witness and cover.

Articles about Dorie’s ministry:

To journalists on the frontline, Atlanta chaplain offers lifeline

2014 Pioneer in Ministry Award

2014 Columbia Theological Seminary Pioneering Ministry Award
The 2014 Columbia Theological Seminary Pioneering Ministry Award proclamation.

No Fun February

2011 BVA Cuts Day
The members of the 2011 BVA’s are put through their paces by the 2010 Summerall Guard. photo from Facebook, Feb. 2010

In the past couple of days I’ve gotten quite a few private messages from parents who are hearing of a discipline situation on campus. I do not have first hand knowledge of what happened. What I can assume is some cadets were accused of breaking a rule or rules. In the course of investigating the situation a ruling was made and consequences were given.

The rules and procedures for investigations is outlined in the Blue Book section 6, if you’d like to read through them. There are separate procedures for Honor Violations. The cadets are expected to know, and follow, the rules on campus. If there is an infraction there is a procedure to write it up, a procedure to respond, and depending on the type of infraction, procedures for a review or board meeting to address the situation.

The system is built to reward good behavior/actions and consequences are outlined for breaking rules. There is also an appeal process. A PowerPoint presentation about the Discipline System can be seen on the school website.

It is never easy to hear your child broke rules, and its even harder if you don’t believe they did it or weren’t treated fairly. At a leadership school like The Citadel the system is designed for the cadets to know the rules then follow the process and procedures, including the appeal process if they do not agree with a ruling. It can be very hard on parents to take a back seat as their student navigates this process.

I am not a graduate of the school. What I can share with you are my observations of this system as an outsider. I know many cadets who have gone through what I would consider minor violations that still resulted in a battalion transfer, to major lapse in judgement that led to a two semester suspension. In all cases it was tough on the cadet and their parents. In the cases I know of the cadets handled the situation far better than their parents. The cadets took their punishments, learned a lesson and moved on. In some cases they ended up doubling their good friends because they ended up claiming affiliation with two companies.

I know it is hard to hear, or read posts, from parents of cadets who have gotten in trouble. It is tough when they are going through the situation. With time lessons are learned and life goes on.

As I’ve gotten older I’ve learned to be less judgemental and more compassionate. Unless something has happened to you or your cadet remember, you never have the full story. I’ve also learned that sometimes, even if it is your cadet involved, parents don’t always get the full story.

A side note about February. . . .the cadets and alumni have a term for it, “F’d up February.” It is a tough school all year long but in the winter it is even tougher. Early morning PT is even worse in freezing temperatures. February is often the time when cadets in the discipline system because of infractions that happened late first semester find out the results of the review or boards and begin their punishments.

Fortunately as the days get longer and the tempuratures warm the mood on campus improves. Spring break is followed by Recognition Day, then graduation. The good news is we are just about halfway through February.

If at any time you have concerns about what your cadet tells you, call the Commandant’s Office. If you want someone to talk to about your concerns the Ombudsperson’s are also a good resource.

Welcome to the Parents of the Class of 2020

Knobs and Guidons
Knobs in the class of 2019 study their Guidons.

For the past four years each January I post a group for parents with high school seniors about to enter The Citadel in August. The group for the parents of the Class of 2020 is now live.

If you are the parent of a high school senior, or a transfer student, entering The Citadel in the summer of 2016, please request to join the group. I do ask that everyone send me an email to verify they are the parent of an incoming knob. That email address is: dorie (at) dorielgriggs (dot) com

The Citadel: Parents of the Class of 2020