Why School Shootings are an Education Issue
There have been less than 40 days in this school year, but already there’s been a slew of school shootings. Each one is horrific in its own way, but the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day hit much closer to home — literally.
My childhood home, where my parents still live, is less than a 30-minute drive from Parkland, Florida. I attended public school in the same district. The Stoneman Douglas campus is a carbon copy of my high school, built from the same blueprint. So, the aerial shots from news helicopters looked eerily familiar to me. I could easily picture the classrooms in which students dove under desks, the closets in which they huddled, and the buildings from which they fled, because they looked exactly like the classrooms and buildings that I entered every day for four years and the closets that I only ever had to use to retrieve a pencil sharpener.
This week, my hometown paper — and every publication in the country — is full of photos of the 14 students who were killed, and those who survived and are bravely speaking out despite their obvious trauma. In the ensuing days, we’ll read stories about the two coaches and one teacher who were killed and countless other educators who risked their lives to protect their students. And we’ll see videos of dozens of grieving parents, struggling with the unfathomable task of burying their teenage children.
This is not what American public schools should be.
Our students should be spending their days engaged in rigorous assignments, not engaged in regular active-shooter drills because school shootings have become a diurnal inevitability. Teachers should be honing their expertise in their content area, not learning about the damage that a semi-automatic assault weapon can do. And families should be assured that schools are safe havens preparing their children to become the brightest that America has to offer. They shouldn’t have to wonder whether each morning’s kiss goodbye could be their last.
Guns are now the third-leading cause of death for children in this country. Every year, guns kill nearly 1,300 U.S. children. That’s equal to the student bodies of three average-sized elementary schools in America. How is this acceptable?
Make no mistake: This is an education issue. As parents, educators, and education advocates, we must take action. We must demand better from our politicians, some of whom ran on education platforms. And we must insist — with our voices and with our votes — that they act now.
Our kids are depending on us.