By Emily Devenney
In the wake of a publicized mass tragedy, like the Marjory Stoneman Douglas school shooting in Parkland, FL, sometimes it seems like we are racing the media clock to get our thoughts out there. As I write this post, there are new developments daily; policy proposals, community responses, and, sadly, more violence.
On Tuesday, March 20th, 17 year-old Austin Wyatt Rollins, a student at Great Mills High School in Maryland, shot two other students before suffering a mortal wound himself at the hands of school resource officer Blaine Gaskill, according to CNN. The officer followed his training, but nonetheless, a student was shot and killed by an armed officer in a school. Just over a year earlier, in January 2017, 14 year-old Logan Clark, a student at Hug High School in Nevada, was shot in the chest by a school officer when he refused to drop a knife he was wielding. Clark survived, but has severe brain trauma.
When we decide that the best method for keeping our students, our children, safe from gun violence in schools by arming school security guards, or employing school police officers, we knowingly put them at risk of more violence. I am not a parent, but when I hear politicians calling for arming teachers, or amping up armed security, I’m thinking of students like Austin Wyatt Rollins and Logan Clark. I’m also thinking about Tamir Rice, Cameron Tillman, Laquan McDonald and Michael Brown, all school-aged children killed by police.
Many of the voices speaking about gun violence I’ve heard recently have been white voices. Both nationally and locally, we elevate the tragedies of, and propose solutions to, violence that affects white communities. A recent story in the Philadelphia Inquirer gave Philadelphia high school students the platform to raise a poignant question: “If the mass shooting hadn’t brought gun violence to the steps of the Florida school...would the Parkland teens be standing in solidarity with them over the violence they live with every day?” Posed by student Dena Hill, the question captures a major shortcoming in discussions about school and community safety: urban children face violence more often than suburban children, but there is seldom national outcry when children lose friends and parents to gun violence in Philadelphia, Camden, or Newark.
Since Columbine, Sandy Hook, Las Vegas, Pulse Nightclub, and now Parkland, we’ve been asking ourselves and each other how we can stay safe from gun violence when people have easy access to assault style weapons, how we can ensure that our children can go to school and come home unharmed each day, and how we can prepare to react to potential mass violence. In these discussions we often fail to question how so many guns have made their ways into our cities, how we can aid in community healing efforts, and how we can reduce the gun violence that plagues Baltimore, St. Louis and Philadelphia without incarcerating even more young black men.
Here are a few ways you can help to expand the narrative. Check out these Calls to Action:
Consider the pleas of the mothers who have lost their sons to gun violence, both street and state-sanctioned; of school children who have had armed guards in schools for years; and consider how other nations, like Canada, the U.K. and Australia, respond to gun violence. No solution is perfect, but one that considers the well-being of all, rather than some, that recognizes #BlackLivesMatter, and that keeps all guns, legal and illegal, out of schools, wouldn’t be a bad start.
When you march against gun violence, we hope you will remember to include ALL children who are impacted by gun violence, which affects black children at 10x the rate of their white peers.
Suggestions for Signs at March for Our Lives:
"Safe Schools, Safe Streets"
“Fund Schools, Not Guns”
“Reduce Guns, Reduce Violence”
“Teach Love, Not Violence”