WL Supt. responds to Perry school shooting

"This isn't just a school issue; it is an entire community issue"


The following is a response from West Liberty Community School District Superintendent Shaun Kruger regarding the tragic school shooting that occurred Thursday, Jan. 4, in Perry, Iowa.

Five were injured and one student was killed in the horrific event that occurred right before the first day back to school for Perry students after the new year.

Supt. Kruger was principal of Perry Middle School for 16 years, having started back in 2005, before coming to West Liberty. The Index would like to thank him giving his unique perspective on this event.

Q: How do the events of Thursday, Jan. 4, make you feel as someone who worked for the Perry School District for so many years?

A: The tragedy that happened at Perry, Iowa, is absolutely horrific and unfathomable. Each year we see in the news these violent crimes, and while they make you sick to your stomach for the students, staff, families and communities, never has something so tragic hit this close to home.

Perry is almost identical to West Liberty, just slightly larger. The people are hardworking, community oriented and care greatly for one another.

Having worked for several years in the district, and having graduated my three children from Perry, makes this very real. Over the years I formed several lifelong friendships with staff in the middle school and the district, and thinking about what they must be going through right now is heart wrenching. 

It is difficult to imagine what the community is going through right now.  Student safety is first in our priorities as educators and when something happens to sabotage this, we all suffer.

My thoughts and prayers are with the entire Perry community.   

Q: How does the tragic event in Perry, Iowa, make you feel as a Superintendent of an Iowa school district?

A: As an Iowan, you generally feel safe and protected. Small town communities look after each other and are the backbone of the heartland. Growing up I don't ever remember hearing about this type of incident in a school.

An event such as this really makes you reflect on society today and just how complicated things have become.

Personally, this really hits home and leaves me with an empty, sick feeling. Knowing so many of the students, families, and staff and how they are affected and will continue to be affected by this is saddening.

Q: What will be the effect on the students and their parents in Perry?

A: I'm sure the effects of this will be long-lasting for all involved. I think it will take the entire community to rally together to support each other one day at a time. Hopefully those most affected will receive continued support for as long as is needed.

Q: What are we doing in West Liberty to prevent a similar tragedy?

A: You know, this is such a difficult question. I'd like to promise everyone that West Liberty is immune to something like this, but no community is immune. I never thought Perry would have suffered such a tragedy.

Student and staff safety are taken very seriously. We have safety plans in place, we have our staff and students trained in Run/Hide/Fight and ALICE, we have double door entrances in all buildings, we have internal doors locked, we have staff on duty in the buildings before, during and after school, and we have met with the West Liberty Chief of Police on several occasions, as well as the head of the Muscatine county emergency management group, and the local fire department.

We want to be proactive, hopefully preventing any such tragedy, as well as being prepared if such an event were to occur, to minimize negative outcomes. 

While all these supports and systems are great, I think one of the biggest issues is student mental health. We are fortunate to have several full-time counselors in our buildings.

We also have counseling and therapy services provided by outside resources that work with our students and families. Our district benefits from having two full-time resource navigators who provide services to several of our students and families as well.  

We must continue to focus on building relationships that support one another. These need to be positive relationships between students, and students and staff, and parents and staff.  I believe the more we support each other the better off we will be.

Q: What can we learn from this tragedy, and can it bring us closer together?

A: As a society we still have a lot of work to do, especially around mental health. It is imperative that we stick together, support one another, keep an eye out for each other, not becoming complacent.

It is also important that we are all, as a community, looking out for every student. We must also be watching out for any warning signs and report those immediately.

This isn't just a school issue; it is an entire community issue.

school, shooting, superintendent, Perry, safety