Former superintendent of Rocori schools shares post-shooting adv - Dallas News |

Former superintendent of Rocori schools shares post-shooting advice

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A lone gunman walked into a high school in Oregon armed with a rifle on Tuesday, shooting and killing a student as classes were getting underway -- but although the shooter is dead, one Minnesota man knows the pain will stay for years.

Police identified the student victim as 14-year-old freshman Emilio Hoffman, adding that he was "loved by all." A teacher was also injured in the attack, which took place on the second to last day of school in a suburb just outside of Portland.

School shootings have become a frequent feature in the nation's headlines, which makes it hard for those who have experienced similar trauma to move on.

"Every one that you read about, every one that you hear about, every story that is related to ours in Rocori is tremendously sad," Scott Staska, former superintendent of Rocori schools, told Fox 9 News.

More than a decade has passed since gunfire rung out at Rocori High School, but for Staska, all it takes is news of another school shooting like the one in Oregon to bring back those memories.

"We're 10 years away from the incident. I can't say we're fully recovered," he admitted. "We're several steps away from it, but it takes a long time to recover from it."

Staska was superintendent when Jason McLaughlin opened fire inside the school and killed fellow freshman Seth Bartell and senior Aaron Rollins in 2003.

Regrettably, there have been hundreds of similar shootings in the decade since -- but even Staska said he's surprised there have been 74 since the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary left 20 students and 6 staffers dead just a year and a half ago.

"I think we've become desensitized," Staska admitted. "It's easy to see it as just another news story. When you stop to think about it and think about what those people are going though, every one is a serious tragedy."

Beyond the initial shock and grief that follows losing a student and member of the community, Staska knows the staff at Reynolds High School will experience a loss of confidence that could take years to rebuild.

"A lot of people think it can't happen here," Staska said. "We're living proof that it can happen anywhere, but that's a devastating piece to feel when you lose that sense of innocence."

Over the course of the last 10 years, Rocori High School has been remodeled. A memorial now stands on one corner. Students like Eric Decker have graduated while staff members, like Mark Johnson -- the hero teacher who stopped McLaughlin, have retired. Even so, as long as school shootings continue to happen, Staska said it will be hard for everyone to move on.

"It's slow, it's difficult, but it can be done," Staska assured. "Each community will overcome it."

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