Parkland. Sandy Hook. Virginia Tech. Columbine. The list grows, and our sadness and anger with it. As Connecticut educators, we have a unique role to play in standing up against school-based violence, a role that we have not played with adequate urgency. Newtown was December 14, 2012, now more than 5 years ago. What are we waiting for? How many more school children and their teachers need to be murdered or traumatized before we take an unyielding stand for our professions?
#ENOUGH! has begun to trend. Students are speaking up and out in Florida and protesting in Washington, D.C. There are calls for a Nationwide School Walkout on March 14th and a National Day of Action against Gun Violence in Schools on April 20th. All of these responses are important. What is also crucial is that we make clear that we will refuse to vote for legislators, local and national, who don’t take action on behalf of all of us, our children and teachers especially. We thought that after Sandy Hook there would be national action on the part of legislators, that Sandy Hook would have been #ENOUGH! But since January of this year alone, 18 school shootings have occurred across the country. Superintendents, teachers, school administrators and staff, teacher educators, and AACTE-CT members, especially Deans and Directors of teacher education programs statewide, must join together in a unified, outraged voice.
We can no longer wait for current elected officials to initiate national gun safety legislation; we must demand their attention and legislative action. There are reasonable ways to approach gun safety through regulatory requirements that mimic, for example, the safety regulations of the auto industry, which have made cars far less dangerous over the years through mandatory seat belt laws, airbag regulations, increased DUI enforcement, driver education, and licensing that requires testing and requalifying. You cannot even rent a car in this country unless you are over 25 years old – and yet you can buy an assault weapon at age 18. We can – we must – vote our way to the successful regulation of guns, and refuse once and for all to allow the gun lobby to continue subsidizing what can only be considered madness.
As educators, there is much we can do to stem violence in our schools. An extensive research base indicates that creating a climate of care in schools reduces violence. And indeed, this is something we focus on in preparing pre-service teachers and supporting in-service educators. But only gun control and safety regulation can assure that the caring environments that educators build will not be sabotaged by weapons meant for war.
On April 10th at 6 pm, Quinnipiac University will be hosting a summit of concerned higher education affiliates, whose interdisciplinary viewpoints on the issue of school violence will be presented. Please consider joining us. The summit’s aim is to catalyze collective action. While we hope to forge serious partnerships to promote safe school climates through sharing research and social and emotional programs as a proactive approach and immediate response to trauma, we will be promoting the power of the ballot box and exposing legislators who have been endorsed and highly paid by the gun lobbies to remain quiet. We will direct our energy toward recruiting education professionals and building collective capacity, so we can speak out individually and en masse to ensure that 2018 will be the year that the gun lobby loses its hold on Congress, and that legislators finally realize that they can either take a stand on gun control, or take a seat – outside of Congress.
Mark your calendars. March 14, April 10, April 20. #ENOUGH!
by Anne Dichele, Dean of the School of Education at Quinnipiac University
Lauren Anderson, Chair of the Education Department at Connecticut College