For Immediate Release
Helping Educators Respond to Student Walkouts Against Gun Violence
On March 14, 2018, at 10:00 a.m., students across the U.S. are walking out of class for 17 minutes not only in the remembrance of the 17 victims of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, but to clearly demonstrate that their generation is fed up with the now predictable “thoughts and prayers” offered up by lawmakers after every school shooting.
In support of our students and teachers, the Guilford County Association of Educators will host a conference call (details below) Monday, March 12, 2018, at 7:30 pm, for public school educators interested in supporting their students through these actions. It is not a teacher’s role to tell students what to do in this moment, rather to facilitate a safe and peaceful way for students to make their voices heard.
The Guilford County Association of Educators supports our students’ inherent right to safety as well as their right to directly advocate for themselves. High school students today were born after the 1999 Columbine massacre. These students have lived their entire lives without any meaningful legislation or policy despite a disturbing regularity of mass shootings.
Our students deserve more. For optimum learning, students need to be assured of safety. Overwhelmingly, research indicates the number one predictor of deadly gun violence is an increased numbers of guns. The Guilford County Association of Educators is vigorously opposed to any proposals regarding the arming of teachers as a solution to the tragedies of mass shootings. Not only is it ludicrous to think that NC, 43rd in the nation in per-pupil expenditures, has the financial resources to even consider this notion, it will not keep our students safe. It would seem our elected officials are eager to consider any viral proposal found on the internet rather than evidence based practices to make schools and communities safer. They need to buckle down and do the work of getting us common sense gun policy and full funding for our public schools. The idea of arming teachers or increasing the numbers of guns on public school campuses is particularly threatening to students of color who are statistically are much more likely to be the victims of these weapons than any potential mass shooter.
Last week, educators at Western Guilford High, Page High, and C.J. Greene used their weekly public education advocacy #Red4Ed pictures to join the #ArmMeWith movement to let people know what schools really need instead of guns. Teachers made signs listing needs from school nurses to art supplies, urging lawmakers to fully fund schools, not guns.
In many ways the policy and procedures educators should follow for the student walkouts are no different than those for other sanctioned school events like assemblies and pep rallies: ensure safe and orderly student movement and safe spaces to voice ideas. Teachers routinely help students grapple with emotional and controversial issues such as the prevalence and politics surrounding guns in our society. These are normal, healthy issues to be discussed and debated in the safety of the school classroom and outside class when students decide to use their constitutional rights to dissent.
GCAE applauds Guilford County Schools’ explicit commitment to our students’ First Amendment rights and particularly appreciate GCS Chief of Staff Nora Carr’s public statement last fall when she said, “… the worldwide history of nonviolent social protests and the courage of those who have valiantly risked their lives in response to hatred, violence and oppression in our community, state, nation and globally provides rich opportunities for deeper student learning, especially when juxtaposed against current events. Indeed, we have a civic duty to teach students how to engage in important issues as future citizens and leaders. As such, our students retain their First Amendment rights to free speech and peaceful assembly while in school or engaged in school activities, including athletics, as long as their exercising of those rights is done in a peaceful and respectful manner and does not disrupt the learning environment or infringe upon other students’ rights to a high quality education.”
Conference Call Details (all GCS employees are welcome to join)
Topic: March 14 Walkouts Against Gun Violence: How to Support Your Students
Time: Mar 12, 2018 7:30 PM Pacific Time (US and Canada)
Join from PC, Mac, Linux, iOS or Android: https://zoom.us/j/782320882
Or iPhone one-tap :
US: +16468769923,,782320882# or +16699006833,,782320882#
Dial(for higher quality, dial a number based on your current location):
US: +1 646 876 9923 or +1 669 900 6833
Meeting ID: 782 320 882
GCAE President Todd Warren will be speaking tonight at the Guilford County Board of Education meeting at 6 pm during the public comments section and available for questions immediately after.