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Gun Violence

How Many More Dead Children and Teachers?

As NBA coach Steve Kerr loudly pleaded a couple of weeks back during his press conference, when are we going to do something about this? At what point will our senators in Washington D.C. put their political differences aside and truly make a conscious bipartisan effort to combat the issue of gun violence in our schools? How many more children and teachers have to die in schools before America takes serious action toward amending gun laws? 

It should not have taken the murders of 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas for us to be completely outraged.

It should not have taken 27 school shootings during this calendar year alone for us to demand action. 

Sandy Hook should’ve been enough. Stoneman Douglass should’ve been enough. Sante Fe should’ve been enough. Buffalo should’ve been enough. The untimely shootings at the Taiwanese American Church in California should’ve been enough. Kyle Rittenhouse should’ve been enough.

Unfortunately, we will once again be reminded that gun safety is not a priority in America—at least for many of our elected officials.

Many people across social media have shared their personal tragedies of gun violence and offered condolences to devastated families, news media outlets have shared their coverage, a national conversation around gun laws has briefly resurfaced, and after some weeks, the conversations will ultimately stop and news media outlets will move on to the next new thing.

That’s the sad part about all this. We always seem to find ourselves in this predicament. It’s like a cruel version of Groundhog Day.

So where do we go from here? How do we respond? 

Arming Teachers Is Not The Answer 

I may not have all the answers, but I do know a few things. Doing two to three shelter-in-place drills per school year is not the gun reform we’re seeking as teachers. Hiding under desks, locking our windows, and barricading our doors will not resolve this systemic issue. The onus can’t continue to be on schools and educators to end this vicious cycle. That’s not fair to us or our students.

Gun Pledge IMage 2

I also know this: the notion of having teachers armed with loaded guns while in the presence of students should never be uttered in any conversation pertaining to school safety. Outside of children, teachers are the last people who should be armed with guns. Given how physically and emotionally draining the last couple of years have been for teachers nationwide during this COVID-19 pandemic, common sense should inform us that many teachers are currently not in the right frame of mind to be carrying a gun. The cumulative stress and the mounting pressures that come with our work are more than enough for some of us to accidentally pull the trigger on a bad day.

Lawmakers in Ohio, Texas, and many other states are setting a frightening precedent for the unsafe direction that American schools are headed. Whether you’re in a red state or a blue state, your reaction to this should be one of great trepidation and uncertainty. This is not the life that we sign up for as educators!

No place is perfect but, as I type this piece from my new home in Freetown, Sierra Leone, I’m just thankful to be a Black father who has the rare privilege of raising his Black son abroad and away from all the violence in America. I know there will come a time when I’ll need to have a conversation with him about what is transpiring—but for now, I’m cherishing his innocence. I’m cherishing the fact that he can attend an international school where he doesn’t have to practice shelter-in-place drills. I’m cherishing the freedom that he has to run around, laugh freely, play with his classmates, and not have his learning interrupted due to the potential threat of gun violence.

EVERY child should have this privilege no matter how young or how old they are. EVERY parent should have the privilege to peacefully raise their children without the constant fear of losing them at the hands of gun violence. EVERY teacher should have the privilege to peacefully teach in their classrooms without anxiously anticipating an armed intruder barging through the door and shooting up every person in sight.

Take Action

The worst thing we can do is become indifferent to what’s happening around us. This is why we need to take action. In case you’re wondering how, here are a few things you can do right now:

  1. Take a stand against arming teachers and instead, advocate for working to find real solutions to our gun violence crisis. Stop what you’re doing and sign this pledge today—then share it with your network.
     
  2. Follow the newly formed Teachers Take Action group on Instagram and complete the following action steps:
    • Complete the End-of-Year/Beginning-of-Year Form.
    • Complete the Demands Form to rank the items on the demands list based on the level of priority. 
    • Email, call, and tweet your state Senators. Hold their feet to the fire!
    • Complete the Action Events Form to share what rallies, protests, or other events are taking place in your state.
  3. Get involved with March for Our Lives and/or make a donation to support their important work. 

Please share this piece and this pledge with your educator colleagues. Let’s keep this momentum going and spread the word far and wide! The lives of our students and educators depend on how we collectively respond to this crisis today. 

Kwame Sarfo-Mensah
Kwame Sarfo-Mensah is the founder of Identity Talk Consulting, LLC., an independent educational consulting firm that provides professional development and consulting services globally to educators who desire to enhance their instructional practices and reach their utmost potential in the classroom. He is the author of two books, "Shaping the Teacher Identity: 8 Lessons That Will Help Define the ...

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