For 17 minutes, beginning at 10:00 AM on March 14, students across our country (and other countries) will walk out of school in remembrance of those killed in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. And they walk out in protest of gun violence in schools. This can be as divisive an act as the media or school superintendents portray it, or it can be a poignant, powerful teaching moment. If history has taught us anything, it’s probably best to get on the right side of this movement. Although, sad as it is, and no argument can be summoned from any depth to counter this claim: as a culture, we’ve learned nothing from history. Nothing. “There is no present or future – only the past, happening over and over again – now.” That’s Eugene O’Neill.
Until we learn, there will be more school massacres; it’s no longer a matter of if it will happen, it’s a matter of when and where, then a body count. How is this overwhelming risk effectively mitigated?
There is no single solution to the problem. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, Columbine High School, Seung Hui Cho, Virginia Tech, Adam Lanza, Sandy Hook Elementary, Nikolas Cruz, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School – and this is only a partial list; what has been done other than allow this madness to continue? Not much. It appears our elected officials don’t give a damn about our school children. Our students need to take the helm on this issue.
About this, statements from school superintendents have surfaced and to their credit, many of these men and women are clearly in support of a peaceful act of remembrance and protest. Others though, have said the walkout is a disruption of the daily activity, clearly stating students will face disciplinary action if they walk. This is a myopic, ill-informed stance. Students shouldn’t be threatened for taking part in this event, they should be celebrated and encouraged.
And disruption? Those school superintendents against this movement are ruefully unaware that disruption of the normal routine, a peaceful disruption, is the only way to get noticed, it’s the only way to have the world stop, if only for a moment, to recognize there are people who want change. These students are trying to ram a very large stick in the spokes of an even larger wheel to say…NO MORE.
There is historical precedent for this movement. Similar activity on the part of students of our country in the ’60s and early ‘70s forced change. Martin Luther King, Jr. led a civil rights revolution that changed policy in our country. Mahatma Gandhi advocated a non-violent dissent against British rule of India. Will this movement have a similar impact? Time will tell.
Schools should, of course, take a critical look at their security protocols, and address any issues, if that hasn’t happened already. But school security is not the only answer, no more than gun control is the only answer, if that’s an answer at all. There must be more.
School communities need to be part of the solution. Engaging school families in a healthy discussion about this issue is necessary. An examination of a school’s culture is also necessary; a close look, maybe a deeper dive than some would be comfortable with, but it must be done. Ask the right questions, find out what, if anything, lurks under what is seen day to day in your school.
And what can be done with political correctness? People are reticent about speaking up when they see something amiss: this too must change. About school shooters, the signs were there, the warnings were missed, nothing was said, nothing was reported. This is a recurring theme in all instances where children were killed in schools. There will be bumps in the road no doubt, like any cultural change in a school, but some hurt feelings are far better than headlines about another mass shooting.
I hope all educators support these students on March 14. It may be the beginning of a powerful agent of change so desperately needed.