Fourteen students and three teachers were killed last week as our country endured yet another horrifying school shooting, this time at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. News of mass shootings in schools or elsewhere shake us to our core every time. This tragedy is no different.
As so many have said, thoughts, prayers, and moments of silence are not enough. Many students feel unsafe at school because they are literally under attack. Since the shooting at Sandy Hook, more than 400 people have been killed in over 200 school shootings. Yet leaders have offered little more than gestures to stop the bullets.
While educators do the work of teaching our youth to think critically, responsibly, and humanly, they are also asked to go above and beyond to meet their students’ needs, from making sure they’ve eaten breakfast to helping them apply for college. Now society is asking teachers to put their lives on the line.
And the hard realities of our profession are never more apparent than they are today. These realities are particularly difficult for you – especially as you think beyond your own safety and consider that of your many colleagues and friends who are literally, and sadly, on the front lines of protecting our nation’s students.
In the aftermath, you may feel overwhelmed or unsure how you can help. But your voice, as an educator and citizen, is critical. Speak out. Here are just a few actions you can take right now and in the coming weeks:
1. Speak to your legislators. Even if your representatives support comprehensive gun reform or social-emotional support for students, they need to know it is their constituents’ priority – particularly as the federal and most state governments enter budget negotiations. While calling them is most effective, you can also do it in under two minutes by text or email.
2. Make sure leaders hear from you on Facebook and Twitter. Here are some sample posts:
- Sample Facebook post: It’s time to protect our students, educators and our communities from another mass shooting. I am calling on YOU, [INSERT TARGET FACEBOOK TAG]. It is time to take responsibility for the institutions you govern. As an [educator, support staff, and/or parent] we will no longer risk the safety of our children as politicians continue to sit idly by. #NeverAgain
- Sample tweet: It’s time to take responsibility for the institutions you govern. It’s time to protect our students, educators and our communities from another mass shooting. #NeverAgain, [INSERT TARGET TWITTER HANDLE].
3. Participate in coordinated actions. There are three major actions happening on different dates. Each is distinct, but all are part of a larger coalition strategy. The dates and events are:
- ENOUGH: National School Walkout: On Wednesday, March 14, Women’s March Youth EMPOWER is calling for students, teachers, school administrators, parents, and allies to take part in a #NationalSchoolWalkout for 17 minutes at 10 a.m. across every time zone.
- The March for Our Lives: On Saturday, March 24, students and families around the country will take to the streets to protest gun-fueled mass violence.
- National Day of Action: On Friday, April 20 - the anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting - teachers, families, students, and community members will engage in acts against gun violence in and around their schools. You can organize sit-ins, teach-ins, walkouts, marches–whatever you decide will show your community’s determination to keep our students safe. The American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, Everytown for Gun Safety, and Giffords are coordinating this effort.
4. Volunteer or donate. Here are four organizations where you can make a difference:
- Sandy Hook Promise. Founded and led by family members whose loved ones were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Sandy Hook Promise trains students and adults to know the signs of gun violence so that no other parent experiences the senseless, horrific loss of their child.
- Moms Demand Action. Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America is a non-partisan grassroots movement of mothers created to demand action from legislators, companies, and educational institutions to establish common-sense gun reforms.
- Everytown for Gun Safety. Everytown is a movement of more than 4 million mayors, moms, cops, teachers, survivors, gun owners, and everyday Americans who have come together to end gun violence and build safer communities.
- March For Our Lives. Launched by a student at Stoneman Douglas High School, March for Our Lives is led by students across the country who are no longer willing to risk their lives waiting for someone else to take action to stop the epidemic of mass school shootings. One hundred percent of donations will go to fund organizing activities across the country on March 24.
5. Never give up. Efforts to curb gun violence after mass shootings have faltered as the news cycle moves on. But you can sustain it. Our nation needs to hear from you, the teachers who now face the prospect of horrific violence. Write an op-ed for your local paper, ask your colleagues to join you at an event, or simply talk to your friends and family about the reality you as a teacher face everyday.
The work you do every day and with E4E is centered around your students. We owe it to them to speak out boldly in order to prevent future tragedies, and E4E owes it to you to be here to provide the support you need during these difficult times. If there is anything we can do to support your students, colleagues, or advocacy, please contact your Outreach Director.