Less than two weeks ago, we watched in horror as one of the worst school shootings in American history unfolded at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida—17 students and educators were killed and another 14 were wounded. Sadly, what should be a unique and isolated tragedy is just one more heartbreaking entry in our nation’s long and rapidly growing list of school shootings. At NASSP, one of our guiding principles is that school leaders and staff members, along with community members and leaders, have a shared responsibility to ensure that schools are safe. Our students have a right to attend schools without fear of violence, and we must do more to support a holistic approach to violence intervention and prevention both inside the walls of our schools and out in the community.
Since the 2012 mass killing at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, there have been almost 300 shooting incidents in American schools. Meanwhile, 90 people are shot and killed every single day in our country. No other developed nation sees this level of gun violence and especially not in classrooms and on campuses. Despite the devastating number of casualties inflicted in just 6 minutes at Stoneman Douglas, we were left to wonder in its aftermath, would this time be any different? Would this be the school shooting that finally compels Congress to take serious action to curb gun violence and protect our schools when Newtown, Columbine, Virginia Tech, Umpqua, and so many more did not? Though there was cause for doubt, the students who survived at Stoneman Douglas and their neighbors in the Parkland community are determined to see that this time will be different.
There has been a national surge of advocacy, action, and grassroots organizing in the days following the shooting, and it’s grown with each passing day. The movement has been largely driven by the heroic leadership of surviving Stoneman Douglas students. Among other actions, they are planning a massive March For Our Lives on March 24, in Washington, D.C., to call for gun reform. Permit applications for the event are currently estimating half a million people in attendance. In addition, educators have launched their own grassroots efforts to prevent gun violence in schools, like this national petition created by an informal group of school leaders from across the country. There are also two other major national actions in the works:
- #ENOUGH National School Walkout on March 14
- Read NASSP’s guidance for principals on handling school walkouts and other organized protests
- National Columbine anniversary demonstrations on April 20
As more events and actions are organized and as the national outcry demanding gun violence prevention and school safety action grows, congressional lawmakers are considering several gun reform proposals:
- NASSP has advocated in support of the STOP School Violence Act, which would provide state and local government grants to train school personnel, students, and law enforcement on best practices for early intervention that would stop school violence before it happens
- Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX)’s bill to tighten loopholes in the background check system appears to have bipartisan momentum
- Legislation to ban bump stocks, an accessory that increases the rate of fire on semiautomatic weapons used most prominently in the Las Vegas mass shooting, also has bipartisan support
- More ambitious gun reform proposals that would have seemed unattainable before Parkland are also being considered, including a renewed assault weapons ban, a high capacity magazine ban, raising the age limit for gun purchases, and enacting universal background checks on all gun sales
Together with other national education organizations, NASSP has joined the chorus of Americans demanding gun reform and school safety action. We simply must do a better job of protecting our schools, our children, and our communities. Gun violence is a multifaceted problem in our country, and we need a well-rounded approach to solve it. What we do not need, as President Trump and the gun lobby have suggested, is more guns in our classrooms. NASSP strongly opposes any effort to arm teachers, principals, or other school administrators except for specially trained school resource officers (SROs). These proposals are dangerously shortsighted, and they would leave our schools more vulnerable to accidents and violence rather than safer from them. Instead, we need to strengthen national gun laws, provide additional funding and support for mental health and crisis identification and intervention programs, especially in schools, and enhance school security procedures. In the coming days and weeks, we’ll continue to organize and advocate alongside the Stoneman Douglas students and in the memory of countless Americans lost to gun violence until we can all collectively say, “Not one more.”
See these resources for additional information on NASSP’s positions on school safety and gun violence prevention: