Opinion
School Climate & Safety Opinion

‘We Must Not Stand Idle': A Call to Action on Gun Control From Education Leaders

March 01, 2018 4 min read
High school students rally at the Capitol in Washington on Feb. 21 in support of those affected at the Parkland High School shooting in Florida.
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

St. Augustine, an early Christian theologian and philosopher, is believed to have said, “Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are.”

Too often, people lose hope after tragic events like the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., precisely because they fail to translate their anger into the courage necessary to make change. (This is not to mention the political hang-ups and distractions that also prevent action.)

But we educators are heartened as we witness the furious courage of the Parkland shooting’s teenage survivors. Their #NeverAgain campaign channels their anger and catalyzes our collective hope.

We have a moral responsibility to move beyond prayers, thoughts, and sympathy to real action."

We are leaders of schools, school networks, education foundations, policy organizations, nonprofit ventures, curriculum publishers, and parent-engagement organizations. We run preschools, primary schools, high schools, school districts, and universities. We prepare teachers and principals and early-childhood educators. We are national policy experts, scholarship providers, and superintendents. We operate public school districts, charter schools, and Catholic schools—from the West Coast to the East Coast to the deep South to our nation’s heartland.

We want our nation’s leaders to know that we have lost patience with their inaction. But we got into this work because we believe in the next generation. And the response of the young people of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School has shown us that they are ready to become our leaders. While we stand embarrassed that our children have to call us out from the funerals of their classmates, we must not stand idle, hanging our heads in shame. We must step up and join them to ensure that these initial steps are not the last.

Since April 20, 1999, the day of the mass school shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado, there have been shootings at an estimated 170 schools in the United States. In that time, more than 150,000 children have been at school when an active shooter fired a gun, according to a Washington Post analysis. Six school shootings with injuries or deaths have happened in this year alone.

“We’re the children. You guys are the adults ... Get something done,” Parkland survivor David Hogg demanded on CNN one day after the shooting. Emma Gonzalez, another surviving senior who spoke at a gun-control rally days after the shooting, rejected the “it is what it is” mentality that too frequently follows school shootings. “If you actively do nothing, people continually end up dead,” she said.

These two students are not alone. There are 3,300 students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and 270,000 in the Broward County District—and they are all channeling their anger, courage, and hope into action. They are meeting with elected officials, traveling to Florida’s State Capitol in Tallahassee, going to Washington, and confronting the NRA. And their actions have already won important changes from retail giants like Walmart and Dick’s Sporting Goods, who are changing the way they do business in response to these brave young people who have discovered their voices.

We have a moral responsibility to move beyond prayers, thoughts, and sympathy to real action. As educational leaders, we should be the first to join these students in rejecting what Gonzalez decries as the “it is what it is” mindset. If we do not join them, we essentially tell our children, “It is too hard, so we will not try.”

See Also

For more responses on the Parkland shooting, read a round-up with a dozen educators’ thoughts on guns and schools: After Parkland, Where Do We Go From Here?

Good teachers know that we can do hard things. We do hard things by taking one step at a time, determining the most effective solutions to thorny problems. Our children deserve nothing less.

Gun violence is not merely about mass shootings. Guns infect our schools in far more frequent and insidious ways. Every day, children in high-crime communities enter our classrooms traumatized by gun violence and tragic loss. This trauma hampers their learning and engagement in school. Educators confiscate guns in schools all too regularly. Many of us only glimpse the trauma of gun violence when mass shootings occur. But the seldom-discussed invisible impact is that thousands of students experience gun violence daily in urban, suburban, and rural America.

Tragedies like the Parkland shooting are just the most visible and disturbing illustration of the problem, and so have the greatest capacity to shake us out of our stupor, to marshal our anger, and turn it to courage for change.

We can hold leaders in every state accountable. We can demand a set of steps that are known to work, such as the package of reforms passed in Connecticut in the wake of the state’s Sandy Hook school shooting in 2012. The state’s sensible gun laws have reduced gun deaths there, including by suicide.

By banning assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition cartridges, creating permits to carry firearms that require the approval of the town’s chief of police, and introducing “red flag” laws—methods for law enforcement to remove guns from those who present an imminent risk—Connecticut lawmakers made their cities and schools safer. Since the Parkland shooting, states such as New Jersey are revisiting legislation to implement similar laws.

We join the survivors of Parkland—and those of every other senseless school shooting—in insisting that students never hear shots fired in schools again. Teachers, school leaders, district leaders, foundation presidents, college and university presidents, and anyone else who cares about our nation’s children: Call your federal and state representatives and demand Connecticut-style gun laws today. Call again next week and every week after that until they pass sensible laws.

Let’s be grown-ups. Our brave students’ lives depend on it. #NeverAgain.



Robert Runcie is the superintendent in Broward County Public Schools, Broward County, Fla.
Emily Bloomfield is the chief executive officer and co-founder Monument Academy Public Charter School in Washington, D.C.
Constance Brewer is the president of the Noble Network of Charter Schools in Chicago.
David Castillo is the executive director of Oakland Charters in Oakland, Calif.
Jonas Chartock is the chief executive officer of Leading Educators in New Orleans.
Christian Dallavis is the senior director of Leadership Programs Alliance for Catholic Education, University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind.
Colleen Dippel is the founder and executive director Families Empowered in Houston, Texas.
Nathaniel Easley is the CEO of the Denver Scholarship Foundation in Denver, Colo.
Donald Kamentz lives in Philadelphia, Pa.
Andy Kopplin lives in New Orleans, La.
Anita Landecker is the executive director of ExED in Los Angeles.
Allison Leslie is the area superintendent for Aspire Public Schools in Memphis, Tenn.
Frances Messano is the managing partner of NewSchools Venture Fund in Oakland, Calif.
Mike Miles is the CEO of Third Future Schools in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Trevor Packer lives in New York, N.Y.
Karega Rausch lives in Indianapolis, Ind.
Raymon Rouhanifard is the superintendent of the Camden City School District in Camden, N.J.
Shalinee Sharma is the chief executive officer and co-founder of Zearn in New York, N.Y.
Michéle Solá is the director of the Manhattan Country School in New York, N.Y.
Greg Sommers lives in Seattle, Wash.
Vallay Varro lives in Boyds, Md.
Janna Wagner is the co-founder and chief learning officer of All Our Kin, Inc. in New Haven, Conn.
Melissa Zaikos is the founder, chief executive officer and principal of Intrinsic Schools in Chicago, Ill.

The signatories above are Pahara and Aspen Institutes’ Fall 2017 Education Fellows.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Achievement Webinar
How To Tackle The Biggest Hurdles To Effective Tutoring
Learn how districts overcome the three biggest challenges to implementing high-impact tutoring with fidelity: time, talent, and funding.
Content provided by Saga Education
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Reframing Behavior: Neuroscience-Based Practices for Positive Support
Reframing Behavior helps teachers see the “why” of behavior through a neuroscience lens and provides practices that fit into a school day.
Content provided by Crisis Prevention Institute
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Mathematics Webinar
Math for All: Strategies for Inclusive Instruction and Student Success
Looking for ways to make math matter for all your students? Gain strategies that help them make the connection as well as the grade.
Content provided by NMSI

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School Climate & Safety Video WATCH: Columbine Author on Myths, Lessons, and Warning Signs of Violence
David Cullen discusses how educators still grapple with painful lessons from the 1999 shooting.
1 min read
School Climate & Safety From Our Research Center How Much Educators Say They Use Suspensions, Expulsions, and Restorative Justice
With student behavior a top concern among educators now, a new survey points to many schools using less exclusionary discipline.
4 min read
Audrey Wright, right, quizzes fellow members of the Peace Warriors group at Chicago's North Lawndale College Prep High School on Thursday, April 19, 2018. Wright, who is a junior and the group's current president, was asking the students, from left, freshmen Otto Lewellyn III and Simone Johnson and sophomore Nia Bell, about a symbol used in the group's training on conflict resolution and team building. The students also must memorize and regularly recite the Rev. Martin Luther King's "Six Principles of Nonviolence."
A group of students at Chicago's North Lawndale College Prep High School participates in a training on conflict resolution and team building on Thursday, April 19, 2018. Nearly half of educators in a recent EdWeek Research Center survey said their schools are using restorative justice more now than they did five years ago.
Martha Irvine/AP
School Climate & Safety 25 Years After Columbine, America Spends Billions to Prevent Shootings That Keep Happening
Districts have invested in more personnel and physical security measures to keep students safe, but shootings have continued unabated.
9 min read
A group protesting school safety in Laurel County, K.Y., on Feb. 21, 2018. In the wake of a mass shooting at a Florida high school, parents and educators are mobilizing to demand more school safety measures, including armed officers, security cameras, door locks, etc.
A group calls for additional school safety measures in Laurel County, Ky., on Feb. 21, 2018, following a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., in which 14 students and three staff members died. Districts have invested billions in personnel and physical security measures in the 25 years since the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo.
Claire Crouch/Lex18News via AP
School Climate & Safety How Columbine Shaped 25 Years of School Safety
Columbine ushered in the modern school safety era. A quarter decade later, its lessons remain relevant—and sometimes elusive.
14 min read
Candles burn at a makeshift memorial near Columbine High School on April 27, 1999, for each of the of the 13 people killed during a shooting spree at the Littleton, Colo., school.
Candles burn at a makeshift memorial near Columbine High School on April 27, 1999, for each of the of the 13 people killed during a shooting spree at the Littleton, Colo., school.
Michael S. Green/AP