Student Voice: Response to Parkland Tragedy
A message from the Student Voice Coalition after yet another school shooting
As our grade numbers went from single to double digits, we watched in horror as the number of shootings in American schools did the same. Today’s college freshmen were babies when twelve students and one teacher were shot and killed at Columbine High School by their classmates. Current high school juniors were in kindergarten when twenty-six students and six professors were killed at Virginia Tech by another student. This year’s graduating twelfth graders were in seventh grade when twenty first-graders and six teachers were murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary school by an armed intruder.
Now, the students of Stoneman Douglas High School, who came of age as gun-assisted massacres of children were normalized in the American psyche, have become the victims and survivors of yet another attack. These students are determined to make sure that no other student, teacher, or parent has to experience the terror and grief they suffered. They won’t let their fourteen peers and three teachers die in vain.
We, the Student Voice Network, a coalition of student-led groups working to empower students to take action on issues that most impact them, stand shoulder to shoulder with the students of Stoneman Douglas High School. We applaud their activism, courage, and determination to make sure that school shootings happen “Never Again,” in the face of politicians, pundits, and others who have opposed these students in expressing their voices.
We have watched attempts to co-opt this student movement by older people with ulterior motives. Nonetheless, we support these students’ activism in the face of such fierce resistance.
Such resistance should come as no surprise. Much of our traditional education system is built on the notion of students as passive consumers of their education experience, rather than as the partners and co-creators we can and should be. This is reflected in the fact that schools all too often succeed in teaching students how the federal government works without presenting any opportunities for student engagement in local or school governments. Students are rarely supported to use our voices to make change and participate in our democracy.
Nevertheless, students lead by example.
In 1963, it was students who gathered at the 16th street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama to peacefully protest segregation in their schools. The world watched in horror as the children, many as young as 7 and 8, were attacked by adults wielding dogs and fire hoses.
In 1967, thousands of students in Philadelphia walked out of school to protest racial discrimination they faced both inside their school and out in their community. Their requests for a more relevant and diverse curriculum and less racist school policies were met with police brutality and incarceration.
In 1970, after 28 adult US National Guardsmen fired over 60 rounds in less than 15 seconds, killing four students as they protested the Vietnam War, 4 million students from around the country refused to attend school in resistance and solidarity.
Now, in 2018, students are trained for school shootings with regular lockdown drills, left wondering whether they will be next. Like the students that came before us, we refuse to accept the status quo.
We stand with all students who are taking action to make their schools safer. As students, we can create school cultures where learning and inclusion prosper together. This is about more than any one single policy. We cannot continue paying lip service to fixing the policies and circumstances that enable these tragedies to take place in our schools. We can, and will, begin acting as individuals and communities to ensure inclusion over isolation by listening to others, influencing policymakers, and ultimately, creating safer schools for students. Now is the time, once again, for students to take the lead in determining the course of action in our political sphere.
We did not choose the designation of “mass shooting generation,” but we must, and will, be the ones to end it. We stand with the students of Parkland High School.
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About Student Voice Action Coalition:
Student Voice Coalition is a group of student-led organizations across the U.S. that are engaging students in issues that most impact their education. These coast-to-coast organizations focus on affecting change at local and state levels while belonging to the nationwide Student Voice Coalition. As a collective, our numbers empower the student voice movement by providing a platform, resources, and support to students. To join the Student Voice Coalition, request membership on the Facebook group or contact Coalition Coordinator, Ben Gurewitz.