Clark County School District, which serves Las Vegas and surrounding cities, held classes the day after the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history. The attack killed 59 people at a country-music festival in the city, and injured more than 520 others.
“Law enforcement has cleared us to have school today, but students & employees directly affected by the tragedy on The Strip will be excused,” the school district tweeted just before 3 a.m. Monday, less than five hours after the shooting. A subsequent tweet acknowledged that some school buses would be running late because of road closures on the Strip.
Backlash was swift. In response to the district’s tweet, some complained that holding classes was insensitive; others said it was irrational. One Clark County student described the horror of not knowing whether her stepfather and mother had survived the attack. “The most terrifying thing wasn’t knowing that my stepdad had been shot; it was not knowing where they were,” she told me over the phone. She learned about the shooting around midnight, after getting a push notification on her phone. She says she couldn’t get in touch with her parents until 3 a.m.
“Is this the best course of action given that no one slept and no one feels safe?” another person tweeted in response to the Clark County School District announcement.
Children are especially vulnerable to the trauma caused by acts of community violence, which is particularly noteworthy when the trauma is all-encompassing: Even though Clark County’s roughly 320,000 students make it the fifth-largest school district in the country, every one of those students—and every one of its 41,000-plus employees—has in some way been affected by the carnage. The scale of the attack increases both the likelihood that any individual in Clark County has directly suffered a loss and the need for the community to grapple with what has happened. …