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