Commentary: Today, students and teachers from across America announced a student-led educational and interactive forum on gun violence in America. The October 20-21st summit in D.C. will aggregate conversations and compromise by students to develop a “Students’ Bill of Rights,” which will be an organizing document for student led events and actions demanding elected officials and candidates address important issues like preventing gun violence, mental health, community and school safety, and illegal guns.
At the end of the school year, returning students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida began calling for students to come together in agreeance on meaningful policy proposals and develop an action plan to make them law. They began with the hashtag “#TimetoTalk.” The students formed a national student advisory committee and engaging with students from across the country. Additionally, teachers are being encouraged to come and serve as advisors to the Bill of Rights process as well as to chaperone.
“We wanted to create an environment where students could rise above the rhetoric, dig into the facts and discuss real solutions. When we return home, armed with ideas, we’ll talk to elected officials and candidates from school board members to senators and ask where they stand on achieving meaningful common sense change,” said Jack Macleod, student co-founder of Students For Change.
The goal of the summit will be to review existing student plans to reduce gun violence and combine them into a single “Students’ Bill of Rights” on school safety, along with a corresponding action plan. The Students’ Bill of Rights will be used by students across the country as an organizing document for civic engagement activity focused on reducing the gun violence that has affected far too many young lives.
“Virtually nothing has been done on a national level to confront the crisis imperiling students’ and educators’ lives. Indeed, Betsy DeVos’ insane and possibly illegal attempts to use federal funds to arm teachers shows how far she will go to advance the interests of the National Rifle Association rather than the children she’s charged with protecting. But if politicians don’t act, students and educators will—and we will organize and vote and call “BS” until change is won.
“The AFT is proud to be a part of this work, work we believe empowers students to seize their future and will help ensure public schools are safe and welcoming places to teach and learn,” said Randi Weingarten, president of American Federation of Teachers.
“Gun violence has been a norm in our country for many years and the youth has finally stepped up to do something about this terrible epidemic. We are finally uniting as a country in order to defend our future. Our summit will bring together many ideas and perspectives in order to come up with a national solution to gun violence not only in our schools, but also in our streets,” said Diego Garcia, a student from Mansueto High School in the Southwest side of Chicago.
“What we do need is what our members overwhelmingly support: universal background checks and bans on assault-style weapons, and high capacity magazines. And our members strongly oppose arming educators, including those who own guns themselves. Teachers go into the profession because they want to help young people learn and grow, and that’s why we are standing with our students who will lead this Student Gun Violence Summit,” said Lily Eskelsen García, president of the National Education Association.
“I am proud our students are now stepping up and taking control of their future. For far too long, we, as adults, have delayed the tough conversations that we should be having. I applaud our youth for taking the steps to bring these issues to the forefront,” said Luke English, a teacher for 11 years, and president of the Marshall County Kentucky Education Association.
More information about the summit, including how students, teachers, and members of the public can get involved, can be found at www.studentgunviolencesummit.com.
The summit is being supported and sponsored by www.StudentsForChange.com, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, Everytown for Gun Safety and Students Demand Action, Guns Down, Giffords, and Brady Campaign with additional organizations to be announced soon.