OP-ED | Enough! We Must All Stand up to Keep Students Safe
Most college acceptance letters start with the words, “It is with great pleasure.”
Not Alex Schachter’s.
In late February, the Florida high-schooler’s family learned that he was admitted to his top school: the University of Connecticut. Known for his trademark UConn sweatshirts, Alex had always dreamed of joining the university’s marching band. Sadly, he was one of 17 students and teachers gunned down at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. His college acceptance letter, sent posthumously, began with the words, “It is with great sorrow.”
From Columbine to Newtown to Parkland, communities like Alex Schachter’s are standing together to demand an end to the scourge of gun violence in our schools.
For Connecticut, Sandy Hook was enough. The senseless deaths of 26 children, teachers, and administrators spurred not only outrage but bipartisan action that led to one of the nation’s toughest gun and school safety laws. Teachers were behind it. Parents were behind it. Citizens and their elected officials were behind it. And it worked. Connecticut has one of the nation’s lowest rates of gun-related deaths.
For students across the country, Parkland was enough, precipitating a national movement to enact meaningful change. Students are calling on their elected officials to pass commonsense gun laws, the way Connecticut did, to make schools safe places.
Along with their students, teachers — who should never be remembered for being killed in the line of duty — are also saying Enough.
We are no longer hoping for change; we are demanding it.
Teachers fully support the courageous activism displayed by the students across the country and are coordinating early morning walk-ins on March 14 at schools across the state to coincide with the student walk-outs planned for that day, so entire school communities can stand in solidarity for the kinds of laws and changes needed to make every school building safe. They are also participating in community action rallies on March 24 in Hartford, in Washington, D.C., and around the country.
Teachers, who encourage civic engagement and who educate their students about social justice, are heartened to see their lessons brought to life by students demanding change. They care deeply about their students and are often the ones — in tragedies such as Parkland and Sandy Hook — who lay down their lives so that the children in their care can return safely home. Teachers should not have to make these ultimate sacrifices — although they always do.
We must all honor the legacy of our brave and selfless teachers and the spirit of their students not only with our thoughts and prayers, but with our actions.
We are calling on Congress to respond to the tragedy in Parkland the way Connecticut responded to Sandy Hook — not by arming teachers but by getting serious about gun control and school safety. We are standing up for the opportunities all students deserve, and our advocacy begins with providing safe, nurturing environments conducive to teaching and learning. We cannot fulfill our obligation to students without commonsense gun laws that protect children in all schools.
We urge every resident in the great state of Connecticut who wants to keep our children safe at school to join us in saying, Enough.
Sheila Cohen is the president of the Connecticut Education Association, which is is included among the sponsors of this website.
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