Safe schools lead to safer students who are more likely to be better learners.
The Connecticut shooting last week shattered the families of 20 little first graders. Colorado’s theater shooting a few months ago claimed the lives of several college students. Chicago neighborhood teens routinely risk their lives en route to their middle and high schools. Gun violence accounts for a significant number of deaths of children under the age of 18- our students. Gun Control would facilitate students getting to and from school in one piece and focus their attention during the school day on learning instead of safety.
New York’s Mayor Bloomberg recently challenged police officers to demand gun control. “Others run away when they hear gunfire, but police officers must run towards that sound” and address the violence, he stated. Bloomberg challenges police officers to take up the gun control mantle and demand that the citizens of their community move to act. Police officers cannot be asked to defend a society that allows rampant gun ownership; more firearms than there are men, women, and children in the entire United States. No other nation has nearly as many guns nor as many deaths by guns.
Today, I am calling on our teachers to also demand gun control. Like police officers, teachers are now faced with the prospect of adding protecting students from gunfire to the list of responsibilities that include providing learning, nursing, and nourishment. When guns and their wielders enter our schools and threaten the lives of our students, we cannot help them excel at multiplication facts or discuss literature. We may be burying them instead.
Social service servants such as police officers, teachers, doctors and others bear the burden of producing, protecting and empowering the next generation of citizenry. We cannot raise tomorrow’s empowered adults when our children today are cowering from shooters and their murdering bullets.
If our society wants us to teach our citizenry, then they must send students in and out of our schools and communities safely. Poverty and violence are two of the strongest challenges to effective teaching and learning. Maslow’s research posited decades ago that to achieve self-actualization and reach our potential as learners and producers in a successful society, we must first fulfill our individual need to be fed, sheltered, and safe. Students cannot learn if they are unsafe at school. And today, our children know that their school and their teachers cannot keep them safe.
The National Rifle Association in 2008 contributed $1.2 million to political campaigns. By contrast, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence contributed $33,000. The lobby promoting guns in our country is far more powerful than any organization or individual who is calling for responsible and reasonable gun ownership. O.K. then, let’s compare dollars. Each of the children killed last week cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars invested in healthcare, parenting, schooling, and municipal support (police protection, fire department, library services, etc.). As a society, let’s get a return on that investment in the form of a healthy, productive adult citizen, not another casualty of gun violence and a loss of valuable ROI. Our political leaders need to compare these numbers against the gun lobby’s millions.
Teachers and parents must stand together with police officers, park district personnel, librarians, physicians, politicians and others who are investing in our children and keeping them safe and nurtured. We may argue about school lunches and discuss the common core standards. We may disagree on whether our kids are too distracted by television and video games. But it is time to collectively agree to stop guns from killing our students so they can go to school and learn.
Dilara Sayeed is a teacher at the preK-college level in the Naperville area and a Doctor of Educational Leadership candidate at Harvard University.