In honor of June being Pride Month, we will be writing a four-week blog series on the history and current issues the LGTBQ+ community in America has faced.
In the 1960s, homosexual relationships and behavior were illegal in New York City. People could be arrested for their clothing, holding hands, kissing, or dancing with someone of the same sex (History.com). Because of this, gay bars became a place of refuge for people. They could go to bars or clubs and be open about their sexuality without fear of being arrested. As these gay bars became more popular in New York, the state penalized and shut down many establishments that served alcohol to individuals in the LGBTQ+ community by arguing that serving alcohol to this group was disorderly (History.com). In 1966, this was overturned through the efforts of many activists. However, gay relationships and behavior displayed in public was still illegal. Therefore, the police continued to harass individuals at the bar and club safe havens (History.com).
In the mid-1960s, the Genovese family purchased Stonewall Inn and renovated its space into a gay bar. Stonewall Inn became a typical Mafia-run bar: costs could be cut in anyway the family saw fit because they did not have to go by the state’s regulations (History.com). However, this space quickly became a place where the LGTBQ+ community felt safe and comfortable to live freely. It was very literally a “temporary refuge from the street” (American Experience). Patrons at the bar could dance freely with same-sex partners and feel unafraid. There was even a warning signal set up for when the police were coming. People would see a light turn on in the middle of the ceiling, indicating the police were coming (American Experience). Because of the preparation for the police coming, patrons could still feel safe. Stonewall Inn became an iconic, important peace of New York City for the LGTBQ+ community.
On June 28, 1969 everything changed. The police raided Stonewall Inn and the individuals inside were not prepared. Because the police had a warrant, they “entered the club, roughed up patrons, and, finding bootlegged alcohol, arrested 13 people, including employees and people violating the state’s gender-appropriate clothing statute” (History.com). The LGTBQ+ community was fed up with the amount of harassment they were facing from the police. Some of the customers and people in the neighborhood stayed outside the bar, instead of leaving. As the events unfolded over a series of a few days, people were mistreated and injured by the police officers present (History.com). When the riots escalated, the police, a few prisoners, and a news writer barricaded themselves in Stonewall Inn, and the mob tried to set the building on fire with them inside (History.com). The protests continued in the area for five more days, thousands of individuals participated. Ultimately, the events at Stonewall Inn acted as a way of saying "enough is enough!" The community was done pretending that the poor treatment of the LGTBQ+ community was okay.
The events that happened at Stonewall Inn were some of the most influential events in the LGTBQ+ community’s history. Because of the uprising at Stonewall Inn, the LGTBQ+ political activism increased dramatically. It led to many gay rights organizations being formed and an increase in activism in the gay rights movement (History.com). While the gay rights movement had previously began in 1924 with the Society for Human Rights being formed in Chicago, protests fighing for equal rights and acceptance began after the events at Stonewall Inn (Infoplease.com). Today, Stonewall Inn is regarded as a very important piece of history. In 2016, President Obama designated Stonewall Inn and its surrounding areas as a national monument to recognize gay rights in America (History.com). Today, people can visit Stonewall Inn and remember its impact on the LGTBQ+ community.
American Experience: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/stonewall-inn-through-years/
For additional information:
The Stonewall Inn: https://thestonewallinnnyc.com/
The Stonewall Inn: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JaAwtO3UUpM
As we close our eight-week series about school shooting in the United States, it is important to recall some of the facts shared from the first post. More than 193 primary and secondary schools, that is more 187,000 students, have seen and experienced gun violence at school since 1999 (Washington Post). Because of this reality, the culture of schools has changed. Before recent years, schools primarily had drills for fires or for weather emergencies. However, it is now a part of school normality for students to experience lock-down and active shooter drills to prepare them for the likelihood of it happening. It is apparent that school shootings have become a problem in the United States, but the question is: Where do we go form here as a nation? What changes need to be made? What are the solutions?
There are a variety of stances regarding what to do about gun violence in schools. People have argued that the solution is to ban assault weapons. Others have argued that the solution must include raising the minimum age of all gun ownership to 21 because of brain development. Some have argued that arming teachers and raising security in school is the solution. Others have offered the solution of extended background checks or thinking through the categories of individuals who should not own guns (Melling, ACLU). Oftentimes, hearing all the debates can make one wonder if the United States will ever reach an agreement about the changes that need to be made to form a good solution to this issue. In the decision-making, there are necessary things to consider. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) the solutions being offered about gun control must take civil liberties into perspective. They suggest that many of the laws and regulations being suggested cause civil liberties issues. They remind readers that no matter what law or regulation is put in place, “To be constitutional, they must at minimum have a clear, nondiscriminatory criteria for defining persons as dangerous and a fair process for those affected to object and be heard by a court” (Melling, ACLU). Ultimately, they argue, that whatever regulations are decided on, the lawmakers must fight to protect the fundamental rights and liberties of individuals in the United States (Melling, ACLU). Thus, no matter what laws are decided on, the first step as a nation is to make sure that the laws and regulations decided upon line up with the civil liberties that individuals deserve.
Since the Parkland shooting this past February, Dr. Ron Avi Astor of the University of Southern California has spoken up about his research in the area of school shootings. He states, “Although security measures are important, a focus on simply preparing for shootings is insufficient. We need a change in mindset and policy from reaction to prevention” (Astor). He suggests that prevention of school shootings begins long before the shooter enters the school building. Instead, he offers a three-level approach to prevention that will take place over the long-term: “(1) universal approaches promoting safety and well-being for everyone; (2) practices for reducing risk and promoting protective factors for persons experiencing difficulties; and (3) interventions for individuals where violence is present or appears imminent” (Astor). In his three-level approach, Dr. Astor provides a variety of steps in making the levels happen effectively. Ultimately, he suggested a “public health approach” (NPR, Kamenetz). Meaning, like the public health system’s approach to treating people before they are required to go to the emergency room, there are preventive resources available to lower the number of individuals who need to go to the emergency room. Dr. Astor suggests a key solution, which is not often talked about, is to “cultivate social and emotional health, connect to community resources and respond, particularly to troubled students” (Kamenetz, NPR). NPR puts his message this way, “Don’t harden schools. Make them softer, by improving social and emotional health” (Kamenetz, NPR).
We have discussed in previous posts the ways that the increased presence of SROs and armed teachers would not be beneficial. We have discussed the importance of students of color and parents of color being heard by the lawmakers. We have discussed the NRA and the Trump Administration’s responses to the gun violence happening in the United States school system. In considering all these topics, what is the solution for our nation? In summary, the various directions the United States could go regarding gun violence in schools is complicated and difficult to think through. However, throughout the series, we have discussed at length the importance of all voices being heard, particularly the voices of students and parents of color. All individuals having a platform to speak and process through these issues is necessary and their stances are mandatory in creating a solution that will be applicable to all. This takes priority in creating a real solution. It is also possible that, while laws and regulations will be necessary, some peace and help could be created through ways such as Dr. Astor describes. Social and emotional health are a big part of creating the solution, and this is often not discussed. NPR suggests that “This is a long haul, not a quick fix” (Kamenetz, NPR). Our nation must be willing to be committed to the long haul in creating a solution.
Astor, R. A., et al. Call for Action to Prevent Gun Violence in the United States of America. University of Virginia and Curry School of Education. https://curry.virginia.edu/prevent-gun-violence
Kamenetz, A. Here’s How To Prevent The Next School Shooting, Experts Say. NPR. https://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2018/03/07/590877717/experts-say-here-s-how-to-prevent-the-next-school-shooting
Melling, L. The ACLU’s Position on Gun Control. ACLU. https://www.aclu.org/blog/mobilization/aclus-position-gun-control
Scarred by School Shootings. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2018/local/us-school-shootings-history/?utm_term=.6c7646cfadf4
In the recent years of school shootings becoming more consistent around the United States, many people are impacted. One people group that is directly impacted by gun violence on school property is teachers and school administrators. With the gun violence happening in schools, what does that mean for teachers? How do they feel about their work atmosphere? Ashley Lamb-Sinclair from The Atlantic spent some time interviewing teachers after the Parkland shooting and she writes, “In these conversations, what I came to understand is that being a teacher today means working in a climate of intense fear—both their own and that of their students… To say the least, it’s not what they thought they were signing up for” (Lamb-Sinclair, The Atlantic). Teachers who once had a role of being an educator and supporter for students now are required to slide into the role of being a “bodyguard and protector” (Turkewitz, New York Times). Schools that once just had basic weather and fire drills now must have active shooter drills as a part of the school culture. Teachers are required to plan for dangerous situations and deal with the jarring feelings that come from this type of crisis. Teachers walk into their jobs every day wondering if they will have to make hard decisions or even give their life for their students (Turkewitz, New York Times). A day of safety and a solution to the violence often seems far away.
Since the Parkland school shooting in February 2018, there has been a rise in conversation about solving the problem of violence on school grounds. The Trump Administration is arguing that arming teachers may be part of the solution to preventing school shootings. There are strong opinions for and against arming teachers. Often, it is easy to delve into the political ideas and thoughts about arming teachers as a solution without considering what the teachers think should happen. Do they believe it would be helpful? Are the willing to do it? According to a series of studies done by Gallup, “73% of teachers oppose the idea of teachers and staff carrying guns in schools” (Brenan, Gallup). Additionally, “58% [of teachers] say carrying guns in schools would make schools less safe” and only “18% [of teachers] would be willing to carry a gun in school buildings” (Brenan, Gallup). Lastly, “7 in 10 teachers think carrying guns would not effectively limit the number of victims in the event of a shooting” (Brenan, Gallup). The results of these studies indicate that perhaps the idea of arming teachers as a solution to gun violence at school is not something that is easy to sell to the teachers themselves. Ultimately, many teachers do not think that their carrying a gun would be helpful in solving the issue. If teachers are not for carrying guns, what do they believe will help the issue of gun violence in schools? Many educators are supporting stricter gun laws; about one-third of educators asked took this stance (Kamenetz, NPR). However, the two most consistent responses from teachers about what should be done to help gun violence in schools were universal background checks and banning semiautomatic weapons. 57% of teachers were in favor of both those solutions (Kamenetz, NPR).
In unique ways, teachers are being impacted by the presence of gun violence at schools because of the role they now must take to protect students. They are impacted by the political arguments about whether they should carry guns. Lastly, teachers are impacted because these incidents are happening in their own workplace. In traumatic ways, teachers are being impacted by their very workplaces being unsafe. Just as much as students should feel safe at school, teachers should feel safe and seeking their safety is important.
Brenan, M. Most U.S. Teachers Oppose Carrying Guns in Schools. Gallup. http://news.gallup.com/poll/229808/teachers-oppose-carrying-guns-schools.aspx?g_source=link_newsv9&g_campaign=item_230336&g_medium=copy
Kamenetz, A. Poll: Most U.S. Teachers Want Gun Control, Not Guns To Carry. NPR. https://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2018/03/22/595648318/poll-most-u-s-teachers-want-gun-control-not-guns-to-carry
Lamb-Sinclair, A. Teaching While Afraid. The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2018/02/teaching-while-afraid/553931/
Turkewitz, J. School Shootings Put Teachers in New Role as Human Shields. New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/19/us/teachers-school-shootings.html
Since the Parkland school shooting in February 2018, a lot of the nation’s focus has been on gun laws, teachers carrying guns, and on how students are impacted by gun violence in schools. However, it can be easy to forget how much the issue of school shootings impacts parents. Every day, parents drop their children off at school under the assumption that they will be safe during the day. They assume that the “Safe Place” sign outside of most American schools indicates the safe atmosphere at the school. However, something as traumatic and shaking as the Parkland shooting can be a reminder to parents that there are many hours every week where they cannot protect their students.
There have been many studies done regarding the traumatic impacts that gun violence in schools has on students and the impact that violence has on child development. However, there has been little research about its impact on parents. Outside of the obvious sense of worry that comes from parents in response to the issue, their reactions and emotions are rarely discussed. Despite the lack of discussion, there are a couple stances that parents are taking. First, the Parkland survivors are attempting to partner with parents. Due to the students’ ineligibility to vote for legislators who support their stance on gun laws, the Parkland survivors are challenging parents to fight for safety through their ability to vote (Willingham, CNN). However, one of the biggest challenges with this is that parents are still split on arming teachers and SRO presence. Since the Parkland shooting, there has been a rise in talk of increasing SRO presence in schools and arming teachers. It is apparent that the Trump Administration and the students have different viewpoints on this, and parents are split on their stance (Schwabe, Journal Sentinel). So, parents around the United States are fighting for child safety. However, they are fighting for it in different ways and are often against each other in the decision-making. Because of the lack of unity, there will be many people concerned with whatever decision ends up being made and if they will agree with the decided solution. One can only imagine what safety would look like if parents were unified on the fight for child safety.
For parents who have students of color, violence in schools becomes even more concerning. First, the white students, parents, and teachers are often the ones who have the platform to make their stances known. Minority students have been trying to fight for gun reform laws for a very long time without near the support that has been seen with the 2018 marches and efforts. Sadly, the United States cares more about the opinions of white families than the minority families, who are heavily impacted by school violence (Lockhart, VOX). Sources have analyzed that about 63% of students who have been exposed to gun violence schools since 1999 were students of color (Cox & Rich, The Washington Post). That is a lot of students whose parents must work through gun violence with their children; sadly, most of these parents do not have a voice to express their thoughts. What does a lack of platform mean for parents who have students of color attending schools in America? It means parents know that SROs and armed teachers are the opposite of safety for their children, but they realize do not have the platform to make that known. It means telling children that they are unsafe on the streets and in the classroom. It means telling children that they will be unseen and unheard in many ways, including their stance on safety in schools. It means that parents must tell kids to always be on alert, on guard, and ready for something to go badly because preparing for the worst with SROs and teachers carrying guns is necessary. This changes parenting for individuals who have students of color and it is devastating.
While both the news and the academic spheres have not taken much time to explain the parental response regarding school shootings, one thing is for certain: Parents should be heard… most importantly, all parents should be heard and have the space to express what is safest for their children as decisions are being made.
Cox, J. W. and Steven Rich. Scarred by school shootings. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2018/local/us-school-shootings-history/?utm_term=.a3571853c210
Lockhart, P.R. Parkland is Sparking a Difficult Conversation about Race, Trauma, and Public Support. VOX. https://www.vox.com/identities/2018/2/24/17044904/parkland-shooting-race-trauma-movement-for-black-lives-gun-violence
Schwabe, A. Guns in Schools? Parents sound off about the effectiveness of armed teachers. Journal Sentinel. https://www.jsonline.com/story/metroparent/features/2018/03/14/guns-schools-parents-sound-off-effectiveness-armed-teachers/407783002/
Willingham, AJ. Parkland survivors ask parents to sign a pledge: Put child safety over guns with your vote. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2018/03/13/us/parkland-shooting-parents-promise-to-kids-pledge-trnd/index.html
Three days after the Parkland shooting, President Trump tweeted, “Very sad that the FBI missed all of the many signals sent out by the Florida school shooter. This is not acceptable. They are spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign-there is no conclusion. Get back to the basics and make us all proud” (Watkins, CNN)! Survivors of the Parkland shooting were outraged in their responses on Twitter. One student replied, “17 of my classmates are gone. That’s 17 futures, 17 children, and 17 friends stolen. But you’re right, it always has to be about you. How silly of me to forget. #neveragain” (Watkins, CNN). This was simply the beginning of the battle between the Trump Administration and the Parkland survivors.
Throughout the past couple months, as students have started to rise up, students have accused President Trump of not listening to them. More than that, most students believe that the lawmakers think they do not know what they are talking about when it comes to stricter gun laws. One student states, “President Trump needs to listen to the screams of the children and the screams of this nation… We’ve been locked in a classroom. We have seen our friends text their parents goodbye. We are the experts. We know exactly what we’re talking about. How dare you tell us we don’t know” (Moran, The Huffington Post)? One of the big problems with the Trump Administration’s response to the Parkland victims is this: President Trump has not stopped and taken a moment to be truly empathetic toward the students who were traumatized and who lost friends. He has not taken time to be empathetic toward the teachers who were in the classrooms, scared of what might happen to the children they take care of every day. The students and parents who are dealing with the aftermath of the Parkland shooting are angry with the comments and lack of support from President Trump (Satlin, The Huffington Post).
Outside of President Trump’s lack of empathy in his responses to the Parkland students, what is the Trump Administration doing that is making the students so angry? One of the main frustrations of the students is that they feel like their arguments are misunderstood and unheard. While President Trump is accusing the students of a desire to repeal the Second Amendment, the Parkland students are fighting for something else (Ciccone, Elite Daily). What is it that they are fighting for? Their main efforts are for: “1. Universal, comprehensive background checks, 2. Bringing the ATF into the 21st century with a digitalized, searchable database, 3. Funds for the Center for Disease Control to research the gun violence epidemic in America, 4. High-capacity magazine ban, and 5. Assault weapons ban” (March For Our Lives, Mission Statement). In addition, the students are fighting for a raise in the age limit for buying guns (Satlin, The Huffington Post). In other words, the Parkland students are not looking to repeal the Second Amendment but help create a safer Second Amendment. Where the frustration for the students lies is President Trump’s stance on gun control. His main arguments on gun control laws include, “1. Relevant information background checks, 2. Ban bump stocks (devices used to make legal semi-automatic weapons fire similarly to machine guns), 3. Arming teachers, 4. Raising the minimum age to purchase a semiautomatic weapon from 18 to 21, and 5. Mental health measures (he suggested that law enforcement should be able to take guns away from people they think are safety risks without going through the courts)” (Berenson, TIME). It is also apparent that President Trump is in support of the presence of officers in schools. Therefore, not only are the students feeling unheard by President Trump, but they are being disagreed with by him. Without the Trump Administration supporting the students, how far will they get in their fight? More importantly, in caring for the country, will President Trump ever consider the arguments of the students as valid? Will President Trump hear them?
Berenson, T. Here’s Where President Trump Stands on 5 Gun Control Ideas. TIME. http://time.com/5195469/donald-trump-gun-control-white-house/
Ciccone, N. This Parkland Student’s Response to Donald Trump’s Second Amendment Tweet is Perfect. Elite Daily. https://www.elitedaily.com/p/this-parkland-students-response-to-donald-trumps-second-amendment-tweet-is-perfect-8626949
Mission Statement. March For Our Lives. https://marchforourlives.com/mission-statement/
Moran, L. Parkland Survivors: Donald Trump ‘Needs To Listen To The Screams Of The Children.’ The Huffington Post. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/parkland-survivors-bill-maher-donald-trump_us_5a9a537fe4b089ec353a7acb
Satlin, A. H. Parkland Survivor: ‘I’ve Never Been So Unimpressed By A Person’ After Trump Call. The Huffington Post. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/parkland-survivor-trump-unimpressed_us_5a8fc5f0e4b01e9e56ba318a
Watkins, E. Trump tweet angers survivors of Parkland shooting. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2018/02/18/politics/donald-trump-florida-shooting-twitter/index.html
“I’ll control my own guns, thank you.” was the statement the National Rifle Association (NRA) made on Twitter in response to the student walkout this past March in response to the Parkland shooting. They followed up the Tweet with a message by Chris Cox (executive director of the NRA-ILA) which said, “gun control activists are ‘blaming good honest people for the acts of murderers’” (Willingham, CNN). As students have been doing walkouts, making public statements, initiating marches, and attempting to create change for their own safety, the NRA has continually spoke out against the students in efforts to maintain their view of gun laws. Holding on to their strong views of what the Second Amendment looks like, the NRA is giving harsh pushback to students and to individuals who are fighting alongside students for stricter gun laws.
It can be easy to hear about the NRA and have little idea for what they stand for, outside of what the media portrays. Some people see them as heroes while others see them as villains. However, it is essential to ask: What is their goal? According to their website, their mission statement is, “The heart of The NRA Foundation’s mission is preserving the core of our American values and traditions in our steadfast effort to Teach Freedom” (NRA). Ultimately, their form of “teaching freedom” is through “defending and fostering the Second Amendment rights of all law-abiding Americans” (NRA). Their solution to the gun violence happening in schools is not stricter gun laws or raising the minimum age for purchasing a gun to 21 years old (Berman & Weigel, The Washington Post). Instead, their solution is more guns. They claim that student safety comes through the presence of SROs and the allowance for teachers to carry guns on school property (Willingham, CNN). The way they are executing their mission statement, “teaching freedom,” is through allowing 18-year-old individuals to own guns, having armed officers and teachers on school grounds, and not listening to the students who are in the schools. While the NRA is making decisions about what freedom looks like for students, they are not giving students the freedom to say what will make them feel the safest.
While some believe that the Parkland survivors and the students rising up are just naïve kids, it is arguable that perhaps these students will be a strong force that the NRA will have to face (Blake, CNN). According to CNN, the Parkland survivors are paying “the price for adult failures… They have to clean up the mess adults leave behind” (Blake, CNN). Because of this, the students are motivated. They are motivated to challenge adult leaders to work together, to overcome differences, and to get something accomplished. Though the NRA has a lot of money to continue to support their mission, the students have passion and time to raise awareness and fight for what they believe is right (Blake, CNN). Through their persistence to be in the public eye and to raise awareness on social media, it is possible that the students can revolt against the NRA in ways that no one expects. Despite the NRA having financial backing and the platform to fight for armed SRO and teachers in schools, the students’ voices must eventually be heard. They cannot be ignored, because the very people that the NRA claims they are fighting for are the ones disagreeing with the NRA’s stance. Is the NRA’s form of “teaching freedom” really giving space for students to experience freedom?
Berman, M. & D. Weigel. NRA goes on the offensive after Parkland shooting, assailing media and calling for more armed school security. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2018/02/22/after-silence-on-parkland-nra-pushes-back-against-law-enforcement-the-media-and-gun-control-advocates/?utm_term=.66ae9d624e4b
Blake, J. Four reasons the NRA should fear the Parkland student survivors. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2018/02/21/us/parkland-shooting-youth-social-change/index.html
The NRA Foundation: Teach Freedom. https://www.nrafoundation.org/about-us/
Willingham, AJ. The NRA’s message for students walking out today: ‘I’ll control my own guns, thank you.’ CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2018/03/14/us/nra-tweet-response-stoneman-douglas-shooting-walkout-trnd/index.html
At the March for Our Lives event, eleven-year-old African American Naomi Wadler gave a speech. She stated, “I am here today to acknowledge and represent the African-American girls whose stories don’t make the front page of every national newspaper, whose stories don’t lead on the evening news. I represent the African-American women who are victims of gun violence, who are simply statistics instead of vibrant, beautiful girls full of potential” (Wadler, March for Our Lives speech). As society navigates through what to do about gun violence in schools, the reality is that students of color do not get heard. Not only do students of color not get face-time on news stations or get articles published about them in local newspapers, but the very concerns they have about their safety often gets brushed to the side. In 2017, there were 50.7 million students enrolled in public schools in the United States. 8.0 million of those students are African American (Education Statistics). So, if 8.0 million students are not being heard, one must wonder: If their voices were heard, what would they be saying? How are the responses of society impacting them?
One of the key responses that the Trump Administration has, outside of “thoughts and prayers” in response to the shootings, the view that officers should be present on school grounds to increase school safety. “School-based policing is considered one of the fastest growing areas of law enforcement. After the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., many people—including the President Trump—said there should be school resource officers inside every school” (Corley, NPR). There has been much debate about if school resource officers (SROs) are helping with school safety. The biggest debate in the argument is that government funding for every school to have SROs is more detrimental than helpful because of the consequences this has on students of color (Corley, NPR). What are the students themselves trying to say? What are African American students wishing they could verbalize?
According to recent surveys, “black students tend to feel less safe in schools with SROs, while white students tend to feel [safer]” (Washington Post). There are a couple primary reasons why African American students are being negatively impacted by the presence of SROs. First, a higher number of SROs causes an increase in unnecessary, extreme discipline in schools. We have seen this in our nation before. After the Columbine shooting, schools increased the number of SROs and higher disciplinary action. “But they did it all in the wrong schools, targeting schools with predominantly students of color. So now, the more students of color there are in a school, the more likely there is a police officer in that school. The result? Increased arrests for non-violent offenses, not increased safety” (NWLC). Even further, some research indicates that the presence of SROs can exacerbate the school-to-prison pattern, which occurs when students are forced out of the school system into the criminal justice system. This impacts student of color the most (Huffington Post). Lastly, in addition to the disciplinary effects SROs have on students of color, police in our day-to-day society have an impact on this. Because African American children are taught to fear the police, for their own safety, this causes them to distrust SROs. One African American student puts it this way, “…yeah, we see police officers, but who’s going to go to police officers when they’re scared of being shot by one” (Destani Nwanze, NPR interview)? For many students of color, the presence of SROs on school grounds is just as terrifying as an active shooter. Seeing the individuals they fear most on their school grounds automatically makes the school not a safe place.
When it comes to most things in American society, white individuals have the platform to speak and share thoughts about issues. In the issue of school shootings and SRO presence at schools, again it is mostly white students who have space to share their concerns and what makes them feel safe. However, while society only listens to white students, 8.0 million students are feeling unsafe, unheard, and trapped in the decisions being made while not considering the consequences for them. In the March for Our Lives movement, some students are trying to create space for students of color to be heard. However, there is never enough space created, never enough questions asked, and never enough people listening. For the sake of our nation, African American students must be heard.
Balko, R. Putting more cops in schools won’t make schools safer, and it will likely inflict a lot of harm. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-watch/wp/2018/02/22/putting-more-cops-in-schools-wont-make-schools-safer-and-it-will-likely-inflict-a-lot-of-harm/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.b0aa925e194b
Corley, C. Do Police Officers in Schools Really Make Them Safer? NPR. https://www.npr.org/2018/03/08/591753884/do-police-officers-in-schools-really-make-them-safer
National Center for Educational Statistics. https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=372
Parkland School Shooting Survivors Meet with D.C. Students to Discuss Gun Violence. NPR. https://www.npr.org/2018/03/24/596218664/parkland-school-shooting-survivors-meet-with-d-c-students-to-discuss-gun-violenc
Patrick, K., Fellow, N. Evans. When Police Enter Schools, Black Girls Pay the Price. NWLC. https://nwlc.org/blog/someone-tell-marco-rubio-when-police-enter-schools-black-girls-pay-the-price/
Sanchez, R. and D. Gallagher. Black Students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School want to be heard. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2018/03/29/us/parkland-school-black-students-trnd/index.html
Why School Cops Won’t Fix School Shootings. The Huffington Post. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/school-cops-shootings_us_5a8715c8e4b05c2bcaca7c29
On March 14, 2018, students walked out of class for 17 minutes in honor of the 17 students who were killed in the Parkland school shooting on February 14, 2018. Students of all ages took a stand to walk out of class to demand Congress to “Ban assault weapons, require universal background checks for gun sales, and pass a gun violence restraining order law that would allow courts to disarm people who display warning signs of violent behavior” (CNN). Survivors from the Parkland shooting gave speeches and pressed lawmakers about gun control laws. However, they were not alone. Thousands of students across the nation walked out in honor of the students at Parkland and to stand up for their safety at school and what they believe is right. Then, on March 24, 2018, students led March for Our Lives, fighting for tighter gun control. The main march was in Washington D.C. However, 800 marches broke out in various cities worldwide. As Daily Show Trevor Noah states, “If kids are old enough to be shot, they’re old enough to have an opinion about being shot” (Noah, Daily Show).
Among the students in the United States who walked out of class and participated in the march was a sixth grader from Pennsylvania, Mia Arrington. She challenged her peers and adults in society to be introspective and ask themselves: Am I willing to step out and have a voice about what is right? After her experience from the walk out, she wrote, “Everyone talks about how much we want to change the world, but we don’t want to take the first step: Changing ourselves… People around us don’t have to support us, but those who choose to support us will speak their minds with us. I can tell you one thing, I will walk with you. Literally and metaphorically. I will walk with you, and I’ll do it proudly” (Arrington, 3-14-2018). Students across the United States are responding similarly to Arrington. Students are grieved, angry, and impatient about the lack of change happening in gun rights and their continual lack of safety at school. The “Safe Place” signs posted on school grounds no longer have any meaning because students recognize that the possibility of being shot at school is something to fear. Young students are mourning the dead and fighting for the living. They are relentlessly fighting for change in hopes to find safety.
There have been many times throughout history where students have stepped out to voice a need for change. Students have often been at the core of social justice moments in America. Students have been active in resistance during the Depression era, Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War, the anti-Apartheid movement in the 80s, global warming activism, antiwar activism in 2006, Black Lives Matter Movement, and now the March for Our Lives in 2018 in response to the increase in school shootings (CNN). The young generations are not giving up on resisting and fighting for their rights. Student resistance is a part of what produces change in America. Scholar Mark Borem defines student resistance in this way: “More than anything, the history of student resistance is a history of power relations. Students band together to try to generate enough force to overcome the forces of their oppression” (Borem, pg. 6). That’s what students are doing. They are banding together, arm-in-arm, to overcome the forces of danger that surround them and the oppression that comes through a lack of action from the leaders above them. They are resisting what has become normal in America through joining together in saying “ENOUGH” (CNN)! The bravery, focus, and persistence that students are displaying to see the gun laws change is something that cannot be unheard by leaders of the nation. The young voices must be listened to.
Joseph, P. We Wouldn’t Be America without Student Activists: https://www.cnn.com/2018/02/21/opinions/florida-students-long-activist-tradition-joseph-opinion/index.html
Encyclopedia, Student Activism: https://encyclopedia2.thefreedictionary.com/Student+activism
Waxman, O. B. Students Calling for Gun Control Can’t Vote Yet. But Age Hasn’t Stopped Young Activists in the Past: http://time.com/5166976/florida-school-shooting-young-protesters/
Andone, D. What you need to know about the national school walkout: https://www.cnn.com/2018/03/11/us/national-school-walkout-march-14/index.html
Boren, M. E. Student Resistance: A History of the Unruly Subject. Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2001.
Arrington, M. Personal Social Media Post. 18 March 2018.
This post is the first in an eight-week series about school shootings in the United States. Each new article will be posted every Monday.
Four weeks ago, Parkland, Florida students experienced the traumatic shooting at their school. Three months into 2018, there have been 17 school shootings (CNN). Six years after Sandy Hook, 63 school shootings have occurred in the United States (TIME). 19 years after the Columbine High School shooting, more than 193 primary and secondary schools have experienced gun violence; more than 187,000 students have seen and experienced gun violence at their schools since 1999 (Washington Post). Gun violence in schools has become such a part of American society that children are being raised to prepare for the worst to happen in a space that is supposed to be safe for them. From a young age, students experience lock-down and active shooter drills at school to prepare them for the potential of it happening. College campuses continue the active shooter drills in academic buildings and dormitories; students never escape the reality of gun violence being possible in school. The question is: how did America get here? When did the consistent incidents of shootings begin in our society?
It is often considered that the Columbine High School shooting in 1999 was the first major school shooting in United States history. However, before the incident at Columbine, school shootings were a part of American history. The Enoch Brown Massacre in 1764, occurring before America’s founding, is considered the first violent incident to happen on United States school property. During the Pontiac War, Schoolmaster Brown and nine students were killed (Hazen, N). The first school shooting to occur after America’s founding was at St. Mary’s Parochial School in New York on April 9, 1891 where children were wounded through the shotgun bullets fired at them (Hazen, N). Though there have been countless of people injured and killed in school shootings, the actual number of how many school shootings have occurred throughout the history of our country is debated due to varying definitions of “school shooting.” The definition we will be using as we further discuss school shootings in future blogs is a violent incident that meets one or more aspects of the following criteria: “At least one victim was injured or killed, either the shooter or at least one of the victims was a student or teacher, the attack occurred on school property, and injuries are as a result of gunfire” (TIME, CNN).
Though this definition may seem to narrow down the number of incidents that are technically considered school shootings, it is also disheartening to realize how many incidents do fit this definition. Through the tragedy of Parkland to Marshall County High School to Stoneman Douglas High School to Sandy Hook to Columbine High School to the beginning of America’s founding, the unsafe circumstances that students face every day is not something to overlook.
CNN: “US School Violence Fast Facts”
CNN: “There has been, on average, 1 school shooting every week this year”
The Washington Post: “Scarred by School Shootings”
Natalie Hazen: “16 School Shootings that Took Place Before Columbine”
TIME: “Number of School Shooting Victims Since Sandy Hook”
According to a Washington Post study detailing frequency of shooting deaths at the hands of police for the year of 2017, Washington State bears the disturbing statistic of 5.38 shootings per one million people, or thirty-eight deadly shootings for the calendar year of 2017. This figure is astonishingly high, compared to other states with large metropolitan cities such as New York and Illinois, which have 0.81 deadly shootings per one million/sixteen deadly shootings in 2017, and 1.55 deadly shootings per one million/twenty deadly shootings in 2017 respectively.
In 2010, as a result of a letter sent to the Justice Department from the ALCU of Washington together with dozens of Seattle community groups, the City of Seattle was mandated to comply with a series of court-ordered reforms regarding the Seattle Police Department’s use of excessive force. Among these reforms, were mandates that Officers file a use-of-force report when a gun is pointed at a civilian, as well as the establishment of a Crisis Intervention Committee centered upon providing training for officers in their interactions with the mentally ill. In a watershed ruling delivered by U.S. District Court Judge James Robart on Wednesday, January 10th, the Seattle Police Department was declared to be in “full and effective compliance” with all court ordered reforms. Following this ruling, the City of Seattle will be subjected to a two-year audit, in which the city must demonstrate they are implementing required departmental reforms successfully. To name a few, these advancements include improving SPD’s relationship with “isolated communities”, as well as addressing concerns regarding the “disproportionate number of Blacks and Latinos that are stopped and frisked.”
In addition to the goal of improving the relationship between the Seattle Police Department and communities of color, it is apparent that the Department still has a long way to go since implementation of the Crisis Intervention Committee. This reality is epitomized in the shooting death of Charleena Lyles, a pregnant mother of three who was killed by Seattle Police Officers in early June of 2017. Lyles, who had a history of mental illness, reportedly threatened officers with knives when the officers responded to a domestic violence call at her home. Although both officers had completed Crisis Intervention Training in defusing dangerous situations with armed subjects, they failed to use less that lethal options such as a taser. According to Mitch Barker, former Executive Director of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, communication with individuals with mental illness or in suffering from a mental health breakdown represents the greatest ongoing challenge for police.
Compliance and implementation of the initial period of court ordered reforms represents a progressive and commendable step in the right direction for the Seattle Police Department. However, the true test of the success of these reforms will be measured in the effectiveness of the department’s policy and training changes within the next several years. If the Seattle Police are going to begin to mend their relationship with communities most detrimentally affected by the Department’s actions, then deadly use of force must habitually become a last resort, rather than an autogenic reaction.
 “Police Shootings 2017 Database.” The Washington Post, WP Company, www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/national/police-shootings-2017/.
 Miletich, Steve, and Mike Carter. “Seattle Police Found in 'Full and Effective Compliance' with Court-Ordered Reforms.” The Seattle Times, The Seattle Times Company, 10 Jan. 2018, www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/crime/seattle-police-found-in-full-and-effective-compliance-with-court-ordered-reforms/.
 Miletich, Steve, and Mike Carter. “SPD Faces New Oversight, Scrutiny of Use of Force.” The Seattle Times, The Seattle Times Company, 28 July 2012, www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/spd-faces-new-oversight-scrutiny-of-use-of-force/.
 Miletich, Steve, and Mike Carter. “Seattle Police Found in 'Full and Effective Compliance' with Court-Ordered Reforms.” The Seattle Times, The Seattle Times Company, 10 Jan. 2018, www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/crime/seattle-police-found-in-full-and-effective-compliance-with-court-ordered-reforms/.
 Steve Miletich. “SPD Ruling.” Document Cloud, The Seattle Times Company, www.documentcloud.org/documents/4346560-SPD-Ruling.html.
 Green, Sara Jean. “Number of Deadly Police Shootings in King County Is Little Changed over Past 12 Years.” The Seattle Times, The Seattle Times Company, 23 Aug. 2017, www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/crime/number-of-deadly-police-shootings-in-king-county-is-little-changed-over-past-12-years/.