Orlando Shooting: A Listening Circle

This listening circle on the tragic shooting in Orlando on June 12, 2016, gives young people a chance to share what they are thinking and feeling, encouraging mutual understanding and support.  

The mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, FL, on June 12, 2016, has left many of us feeling sad, worried, angry or even fearful.

When upsetting events happen, a listening circle  can be helpful for young people of all ages, as well as for adults.  Listening circles give people a chance to say what they are thinking and feeling, and can help engender mutual understanding and support.

The format is simple:  Arrange chairs in a circle.  Provide an introduction to the issue at hand, and to the format of the circle. Then invite each person in turn to share what they are thinking and feeling. 
Give each person a few minutes to say whatever they want to say - or to pass.  When one person is speaking, the others in the group should pay close attention but not comment.  The circle is over after every person has had a chance to speak. Often going around the circle more than once allows those who pass on the first go-round to collect their thoughts and feelings so that they can share in the next round.
Below are some suggestions for an introduction and prompts for a circle on the Orlando shooting.  Please also see these guidelines for discussing difficult issues in the classroom.

Introduction: Background on the Shooting in Orlando

Tell students that many of us are feeling upset about the mass shooting in Orlando, Florida, on Sunday, June 12.  Today, we'll have a chance to share some of our thoughts and feelings about what has happened.  We'll be using a circle process: Each person will have a few minutes to say what they want to say or to pass. When someone is speaking, listen closely but do not respond or comment. 
Before we begin, here are some things we have learned about the shooting in Orlando.  (Adapt as appropriate for the age group.)

  • The shooting took place in the early morning hours of Sunday, June 12, at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida.  The club, called Pulse, is a popular gathering place for LGBT people.  It was Latin night at the club, and many people were dancing and celebrating.
  • At about 2 am, a gunman opened fire in the club.  Fifty people were killed (including the gunman himself), and 53 were injured.  It is the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.
  • The gunman has been identified as Omar Mateen, 29. He was born in New York and lived in Fort Pierce, FL.  He was armed with a handgun and an AR-15 assault rifle.  It is reported that he had purchased the guns legally in the past week or two.
  • During his assault on the club, Mateen called 911 and in the call, pledged allegiance to the terrorist group known as the Islamic State or ISIS. ISIS later claimed responsibility for the killing, stating that the attack "was carried out by an Islamic State fighter." Officials say so far there is no indication that Mateen had any direct connection with the group before the shooting. However, Mateen had been investigated in the past for possible terrorist ties. 
  • Several who knew Mateen described his hatred of gay people. A former co-worker of Mateen's said that in the past, he had voiced hatred of gays, Blacks, women, and Jews.
  • People in Orlando, the country and around the world reacted with horror to the shooting. There has been an outpouring of support for the victims, for the LGBTQ community, and for the people of Orlando.  People from all backgrounds and religions expressed grief over the killings, and concern for the victims and their families.
  • When Orlando hospitals issued a call for blood donations to help those injured in the attack, hundreds of people flooded to blood donation centers. Some waited over 6 hours to give blood.  Hundreds more - including gay and straight people of all backgrounds -showed up to volunteer at a local support center for LGBTQ people. 
  • At a press conference, President Obama decried the killing and the hatred behind it. "This is a sobering reminder that attacks on any American - regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation, is an attack of all of us, and on the fundamental values of equality and dignity..."


Circle Go-Rounds

1.  What thoughts and feelings have you had about the attack in Orlando? (one or more rounds)

2.  What thoughts might you want to share with the victims, their friends and families, and with others who are feeling vulnerable in the face of the attack?

3.  In his press conference, President Obama said:  "In the face of hate and violence, we will love one another."  What is one thing we could do - individually, as a group, or as a society - to show love for one another in the wake of this attack?


More information & helpful links: