GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Mitch Robinson is a Michigan State University associate professor of music education, a member of the State Board of Education, and father of an MSU student.

Monday night, Robinson’s son was in the MSU Union when a student was shot and killed.

“They heard a noise and thought someone in the kitchen had dropped a tray. They didn’t think much of it. And then they heard two more in quick succession, and they realized something was wrong,” said Robinson of his son’s experience.

Robinson’s son and his friends dropped to the ground and crawled to the back door and to safety.

“He’s a 6’3″ strapping, tall, healthy-as-an-ox, 19-year-old and (I’m) getting a text message from him on Monday … ‘Dad I’m so scared.’ There’s no way to prepare for that … The thing he said to us that I can’t stop thinking about was that he felt, and all of them felt, prepared for this to happen. Because since kindergarten, they’ve been doing active shooter training.”

Although thankful his son and friends knew what to do, Robinson worries about the trauma active shooter training is having on society.

“I don’t know that we have figured out how much trauma and psychological damage we’ve done to a generation or more of kids, as young as 5 and 6 years old, by putting them through these active shooter drills.”

As a professor of music education, Robinson has former students now teaching in the Oxford Community School District.

He said he’s been in close contact with those former students over the last year. Although what they endured can’t be taught in a classroom, Robinson said they’ve been able to work together to get through the tragedy in November 2021 that left four students dead.

Music is a powerful tool in bringing community together for support and healing after tragic events, Robinson said. Like a chorus, band or orchestra, each member plays a part to make the whole better.

“I think music is kind of a social glue. It brings people together. I don’t think there’s any mistake there that the school anthem, MSU Shadows, has been played or sung dozens of more times in the past three days. It’s a way for us to build community. It’s a way for us to connect to each other,” he said.

Robinson is also an education policy researcher. He is not in favor of hardening schools. He believes the solution is a society that’s safer, healthier, and more welcoming.

“I don’t think any of us as parents want to send our kids every day to miniature prisons. That’s not what we want. We want schools to be safe and healthy and exciting, vibrant places for kids to move around learn in the ways they learn best.”

Monday, Robinson and his colleagues will be ready to welcome MSU students back to the classroom.

“Our challenge is going to be to help each student in the way they need to be helped. For some that may be a hug at the door, for others that may be just a subtle nod and a smile,” said Robinson. “I don’t know yet, I’m going to follow my students’ cues. But I’m going to be there, and I know my colleagues will on Monday morning ready for what our kids need to get back into the safety that they expect.”