Survivors and Students, Unite for Change

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Yesterday, on a day set aside for expressing love, we added 17 more kills to the school shooting count in the U.S. The total, since and including the massacre at Columbine, is now over 280—give or take a few lives.

If you are shocked by words like kill count, or an off-hand estimate, you should be. As a nation, we’ve gone from being shocked, horrified and making vehement declarations of never letting this happen again, to watching the blip on cable news, shaking our heads and offering thoughts and prayers.

Meanwhile, the president of our country vague-speaks, laying blame on those who didn’t report an obviously disturbed and dangerous potential shooter. Report, and then what? One of the first things the current president did was sign a bill revoking the Obama-era gun checks for people with mental illness. There are no laws in this country to force long term intervention or treatment for somebody who seems unstable or dangerous and now, again, there are no laws to keep guns out of their hands.

None of the members of our conservative led congress want to talk about common sense gun control as an immediate response to school and other mass shootings. They won’t even entertain temporary measures while we figure out the deeper complexities that include mental illness, school environments, and healthy ways to mitigate stress and aggression—remember physical education class? It was about more than learning how to play sports or do sit-ups.

To be honest, there are liberal members of congress who shy away from this First Amendment quibble too, for fear of losing campaign funding or support at the poles. It’s not only conservatives and GOP voters who buy and carry guns.

And what of the parents who refuse to apply pressure to the stress points, to break open a larger debate and force reform? Where are the voices of outrage, the grass roots movements, at the very least, the votes against state and federal representatives who buckle under pressure and funding from the NRA?

But there is an overlooked group that holds the key, holds the power to doing what we parents, community leaders and representatives in government have failed to do—protect students in school. It’s the single group with the most at stake; the students.

In my little Midwest hometown, in 1928 just such a group of students stood up against the unfair and corrupt practices of their high school, and they weren’t even in danger of being picked of in a random-act shooting gallery. Their physical safety was not a concern. Yet, what they did to enact change was unprecedented, receiving national news coverage at the time. Their action was bold and brave. They staged a walk-out.

Oh, but it wasn’t just any walkout, and it wasn’t just for a day to make the news. They staged their protest for more than six weeks, under continued pressure to return to their classrooms. You can read the historical account in this Historic Student Walkout in Superior, WI (I have highlighted important passages).

What they protested is not as important as how they did it. These students, these children, not only won their battle they also affected change in Wisconsin legislative law regarding school board elections that still stands today.

In summary, on march 31st, 1928 about half the students of Superior’s Central High walked out in protest of  both a teacher and administrator who had been dismissed without due process or fair trial. Within three days the number of protesters had grown to more than 70% of the city’s entire enrollment in secondary classes, including those from numerous parochial schools which, at the time, were not governed by federal school regulations or guidelines.

Change never comes easily, it doesn’t come with struggle and sacrifice. I urge survivors of all school shootings (whether still students or adults now out of school) to share your stories across social media platforms. Stand up, speak out loud and clear. Make your voices and your concerns heard.

Students who have attained the age of critical thinking, decide what you want for your safety in our public schools. Look to mentors for leadership. Write your manifesto and lay out your demands. Expose legislators who take funding from the NRA. Apply pressure to the stress points.

There will be consequences; but suspension, expulsion, loss of possible scholarships and other punitive measures pale in comparison to the possible loss of your life, or the life of someone you love. And in my opinion, any of those would warrant a strong legal case against the school or other entity that deigned to enforce such punishment. You would, after all, be acting in your own best interest of protecting yourself from injury or death while in a building where your attendance is required by the very government agency that has taken no action or measures to protect you.

Stand up, speak out, affect change for your own safety and that of those who will follow you.

#staysafe #stayhome #demandchange

 

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