Education Matters: School shootings: The tipping point?

The 2012 Sandy Hook massacre had to be the tipping point. How can a nation do nothing when six adults and 20 kindergarten and first-grade children, babies all, were slaughtered by a madman?

But I was wrong.

Since then, we’ve had mass murders at so many events and venues … and more school shootings. And still nothing.

Could Parkland, Florida be where we finally turn the corner?

We adults have failed our children.

When our kids can’t go to school and feel safe, we have failed our children.

When schools do regular shooter drills, along with the now quaint fire drills and earthquake drills, we have failed our children.

When we expect our children to come home from school alive and they don’t, we have failed our children.

But at last, there’s a sign of hope.

The children themselves are speaking up, mobilizing and demanding change. The students are taking charge of this issue because it’s their lives on the line.

Students are making demands, and they are reasonable. Gun control, period.

No access to semi-automatic weapons for children … or any civilian for that matter. A crazy kid with a knife can’t carry out a rampage like he can with a semi-automatic.

When students who study American history learn about the Second Amendment, they know with absolute certainty that the Founding Fathers did not intend for this to be the result. These are unintended consequences to the extreme.

Enough of politicians who say now is not the time to discuss gun control.

Enough of politicians who send “thoughts and prayers” and nothing else.

Enough of politicians who say they are “here for the families” but bring nothing but meaningless hugs and empty promises.

Enough of politicians who flippantly say, “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”

As student Emma Gonzalez said in a powerful speech after the Parkland shooting, “We call BS.”

Emma pointed out that since the days of our Founding Fathers, the guns have changed but the laws have not.

“To every politician taking donations from the NRA, shame on you,” she said, to cheers from the crowd

Protect your kids, not your guns

Students and their allies are mobilizing. There are calls for walkouts, sit-ins, boycotts and other forms of protest.

Look past the adolescent pimples and braces and in their faces you see determination, outrage, fear … and power.

A sign held by a young student at a rally in Parkland after the shooting read, “Protect your kids, not your guns.”

This is their moment; this is their movement.

We adults should be embarrassed that we have failed our children. Consequently, they have inherited a nation of violence and a growing gun-obsessed culture that tragically appeals strongly to disaffected youth.

As a result of our failure, our children now carry the torch. We leave it to them to seize control of the issue and fight for their basic right to go to school and return home safely.

Our recurrent national tragedies are an international disgrace and an appalling legacy to leave to our kids.

But they have the ability to redefine our country and reclaim it for themselves.

Godspeed, before more children have to die.

Organized protests

Parkland students are organizing an anti-gun demonstration on March 24, and many plan to march on the state capitol this week.

The Women’s March Youth Empower movement is calling for a 17-minute walkout (one minute for each of the 17 Parkland victims) on March 14.

Organizers of this National School Walkout Day are protesting gun violence and are demanding that Congress take legislative action.From the group’s statement: “Students and staff have the right to teach and learn in an environment free from the worry of being gunned down in their classrooms … Parents have the right to send their kids to school in the mornings and see them home alive at the end of the day.”

Another national walkout to protest the lack of effective gun legislation, sponsored by the Network for Public Education, will take place on April 20 and is called the National Day of Action Against Gun Violence in Schools.

April 20 is the 19th anniversary of the Columbine shooting in Colorado.

“The failure to enact rational laws that bar access to guns designed for mass shootings is inexcusable. It is past time to speak out and act,” reads a statement from the group’s social media.

“We urge teachers, families, students, administrators and every member of the community to engage in acts of protest in and around their schools.”

That includes sit-ins, teach-ins, walkouts, marches – whatever each community feels can be most effective.

The April 20 protest’s slogan is, “We are students. We are victims. We are change.”

When do we finally care?

Social media is filled with cries for help and expressions of anger from teens caught in the crosshairs. This was one of my favorites, in response to the often cited excuse that if we ban guns, killers will find another way:

“Let them find another way. Let them try to kill dozens in a matter of minutes with a Goddamn butter knife. Let them hurl stones. Let’s force mass murderers to get creative as hell. Because I’m tired of it being easy for them.”

I hope our local teens join in the national protests and join with their colleagues across the country who have been victims of the carnage caused by rampant gun proliferation.

In an NBC Nightly News segment Feb. 17, four Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students displayed wisdom and maturity beyond their years.

One girl who was shot and just released from the hospital spoke passionately through her tears about the Parkland tragedy.

“You see it on the news and you say that’s not my kid, that’s not my problem,” she sobbed. “What if one day it is your kid? What if one day it is your kid who got shot? Then are you going to finally care?”

When are we finally going to care?

Said one boy, “We’re mature enough to know how to use our voices.”

Their voices are defiant and inspirational.

So watch out, all you NRA-loving politicians who value gun money over children’s lives. Our kids are coming for you, and I for one couldn’t be more proud. Or more hopeful.

Opinion columnist and Sr. Education Writer Marsha Sutton can be reached at: suttonmarsha@gmail.com.

Sidebar:

Mental health in local schools

Even as we agree that more professional counselors are desperately needed in our schools to help lost students with suicidal or homicidal ideations, no money is provided.

We have counselors, but in our local schools they have excessive caseloads for sometimes up to 600 students each – and they focus on coursework, college applications, testing and other non-mental health issues.

Schools need more guidance counselors, but they are no substitute for trained psychologists.

Meredith Wadley, director of Student Services for the San Dieguito Union High School District, said at a school board meeting last May that the recommendation (without citing a source) for students per school psychologist is 1,450:1.

She was proud to tell the board that San Dieguito is below that, at 1,076:1.

But the National Association of School Psychologists recommends one psychologist for every 500 to 700 students. Even that seems too high.

The NASP also recommends a ratio of students to social workers of 400:1. Wadley said San Dieguito just last year hired four social workers. The district has more than 12,000 students.

It’s matter of priorities. Nothing will change until administrators hear from the kids themselves that this issue must be addressed at every school, forcefully and with full funding.

Our children’s lives depend on it.

— Marsha Sutton

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