Mass School Shootings: The Civil Rights Movement of Our Time

This weekend the words of Emma Gonzalez rang in our ears and split open our hearts.  And personally, I screamed a resounding “YES!”

“The people in the government who were voted into power are lying to us.  And us kids seem to be the only ones who notice and our parents to call BS. Companies trying to make caricatures of the teenagers these days, saying that all we are self-involved and trend-obsessed and they hush us into submission when our message doesn’t reach the ears of the nation, we are prepared to call BS. Politicians who sit in their gilded House and Senate seats funded by the NRA telling us nothing could have been done to prevent this, we call BS. They say tougher guns laws do not decrease gun violence. We call BS. They say a good guy with a gun stops a bad guy with a gun. We call BS. They say guns are just tools like knives and are as dangerous as cars. We call BS. They say no laws could have prevented the hundreds of senseless tragedies that have occurred. We call BS. That us kids don’t know what we’re talking about, that we’re too young to understand how the government works. We call BS.”

Those of us who went into the education field did so because it is a civil right and one, we believe, must be upheld to the highest degree.  While we obsessively focus on this through standards and achievement, we are largely overlooking the most critical component–our children. Educators have known this for a long time, but now we are seeing it to a new degree. True–a quality education is one where high academic achievement is attainable for all.

A quality education is also one absent of trauma, and we are not delivering!

We argue that mental health has to be addressed in this country to reduce the likelihood that these events continue to occur.  Again, true.  Yet, has anyone thought of the mental well-being of those surviving this horror?  What counseling and therapy options will be available to them for the rest of their lives?  Each and every time one of these mass shootings occur we destabilize the level of mental health in our society even further, most often amongst our young people.  We expect, and hope, that each generation will come forth to make our country stronger than before, and when we don’t think they deliver our reaction is making sarcastic, mocking memes.  But just look what they’re subjected to.

As Emma so eloquently stated, the adults voting on education policy are not those that have to live and attempt to survive in its system.  When we vote, we make decisions for our children that we don’t have to endure or personally experience.  When we vote, we either say “enough is enough” or the system is adequate as is.  What does your vote say, because it matters more now that ever before?  And asshole memes won’t change a thing.


Pernille Ripp addressed this issue over the weekend in her post, I Don’t Want to Be a Hero.  I would add the following:

When educators stepped into this job it was to be a hero, but it was to be the quiet kind that doesn’t make the news.

It was to be the kind of hero that protects their students by guarding them with knowledge, not their own bodies.

It was to be the kind of hero that intended to hear student voices through innovative ideas, not screams of terror.

It was to be the kind of hero who helped students learn who they were as learners, not what they would do in a crisis.

It was to be the kind of hero who attended their students’ sporting events, not candlelight vigils for those lost.

It was to be the kind of hero who drives students to take action and make society better, and damn it we are still doing that, but it should not be in this context.

Some say it’s a mental health issue.  Yes.  Some say it’s a gun law issue.  Yes.  Some say it’s healthcare issue.  Yes.

This issue is not a singular layer.  Whichever layer you believe is perpetuating these events, take a stand.  Do something.  Just as I said in a previous blog, our silence and inaction are KILLING us.

I will be marching on March 24th and I hope to see a lot of familiar faces.  If we aren’t making our voices heard, why are we in this work?

Furthermore, who are we as a country when we allow our children to get slaughtered in a place they are mandated to attend?

Education is a civil right and this is the Civil Rights Movement of our time!