This week a group of first-grade children told their teacher during a lockdown drill that they would barricade the door with their small bodies “to keep the bad man out.” Their courage is striking against a Congress unable to summon the same fortitude.
It was this exact action that Anthony Borges took in Parkland, saving the lives of his teacher and classmates. It is the same jarring scenario and unconscionable calculations teachers are considering across the country – what could become a barricade, a hiding place, an escape route?
In response, President Trump has suggested that we need to “harden” our schools by arming teachers like us with guns. But we, and many of our colleagues, have a better idea: Rather than arming teachers with weapons of death, arm us with tools that will help students thrive.
Arm us with resources. Our schools quite literally house the future: tomorrow’s legislators, artists, teachers and parents. What could be more important than ensuring that teachers have access to resources we know will help these students be safe and healthy?
It’s time to listen to teachers, who have taken to social media using the hashtag #ArmMeWith to advocate for resources our schools actually need: counselors, school psychologists, food programs, smaller class sizes, reams of paper.
While we’re talking resources, let’s look at the president’s proposed budget. Rather than spending money on bonuses for teachers who carry, the president should rethink proposed cuts that will further undermine efforts to prevent gun violence and support school safety.
Arm us with stronger gun laws. Gun violence in America is robbing us of too many children, and it’s not just happening inside of schools. America loses an average of 25 children under the age of 17 to gun violence each week, according to a report in the Journal of Pediatrics. Gun violence disproportionately impacts young people, especially young black men.
Children who are not victims of bullets still carry the weight of this trauma. One of our students recently expressed his anger at the death of a neighborhood friend. His pain was evident, but his tone was resigned. He had seen this before. Teachers nationwide, particularly in communities that suffer greater violence, witness the lasting effects of trauma every day.
An act of violence takes a piece out of you and peace from you. We cannot continue to debate the violence that happens to students without recognizing the violence happening inside of traumatized children. Adverse childhood experiences have an indelible impact on students’ cognitive and emotional health.
If we value children’s lives, we will act to protect them from bullets aimed for them and trauma wrought by gun violence in their communities. Arm us with common-sense gun laws that will protect children: Improve the universal background check system, ban assault weapons and high capacity magazines, support community-based violence reduction programming, ensure that domestic abusers don’t have access to guns and free up and fund the CDC to research gun violence as a public health issue.
Arm us with your support. One school shooting is too many; what we are currently living through is a dystopian nightmare. But there is energy and momentum to make our country safer, much of it carried by the people whose lives are directly at stake in these acts of violence: students and teachers.
We applaud those with the courage and conviction to interrupt the status quo and take a stand for a change in laws. More Americans need to step up for our children. Don’t watch and wait for others – march for it, demand it and call on your boards of education and superintendents to act as well.
Our kids – including those six-year-olds planning for “the bad man” – are begging us to do something different this time around. As 17-year-old Parkland survivor David Hogg said, “We are children. You guys are the adults. Work together, come over your politics, and get something done.”
Our schools are meant to be sanctuaries of nurture and growth, grace and peace. We must resist the ploy to focus the debate on putting more guns in schools. The answer is not more guns inside; it’s fewer guns outside, coupled with supporting the efforts of teachers and the lives of children.