California Educator

April / May 2018

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Take Action Students As they rise against gun violence, some see a threat By Charleene Puder P R E S I D E N T T R U M P has been speaking about "hardening" our public schools by arming teachers. Is this really the best solution to the problem? Data show that environments with more guns produce more gun violence and more deaths, not fewer. But I don't believe the safety of stu- dents and teachers is the real reason for this dangerous idea. The students of Marjor y Stoneman Douglas High School have been amaz- ing. Anyone who has had interactions with the Parkland students can't help but conclude that they have been well prepared for their future by outstanding teachers in an excellent public school. ey've done their research, synthesized information, evaluated ideas, delivered well-written speeches, and organized a movement. They are proud of their school and love being students there. ey represent everything we want our young people to be. But there are groups in this country who see them as a threat. ese students are doing more than vocally challeng- ing our approach to unrestricted gun ownership. They are also challenging the oft-repeated narrative that our pub- lic schools are terrible. ey visibly and overwhelmingly contradict this narrative that conser vative forces use to justify abandoning public schools. ese forces actually started the hard- ening of public schools years ago with the relentless emphasis on test scores, reducing students and schools to mere numbers that do not prop- erly measure the important s k i l l s a n d p r o f i c i e n c i e s being demonstrated by all the students. Now they'd love for public schools to be further hard- ened by requiring teachers to carr y concealed weap- ons. Teachers will yet again be forced to enact another c r a z y i d e a , p r o m o t e d by someone who knows nothing about education. Once things go wrong (and of course they will), when a teacher's gun gets used incorrectly and ( heaven forbid) a student is shot, the incident will be used to further undermine sup- port for public schools. When things go awry, only the schools and teachers will be blamed. When it comes to the coun- try 's big problem with gun violence, it feels like only the schools are being asked to find a solution. I 'm saddened that in my final years as a teacher, active shooter drills were a regular part of my students' learning environment. During these drills, while huddled behind a barrier in a dark cor- n er of my cl a ssro om , stu d ent s of t en needed reassurance this exercise was not real. Their fear was. No 6-year-old should be required to have this experi- ence so that adults can pursue a hobby. No 6 - ye a r - o l d or 1 6 - ye a r - o l d sh o ul d have to witness their teacher in a shoot- out with a young person wielding a gun. Data from child development studies show again and again that when chil- dren are raised in a home with violence, they are more likely to behave violently. When students live in communities with violence, they become desensitized to violence. So now schools will no longer be places of refuge, but will further exac- erbate the culture of violence. Once I decided to retire, I had a daily m a n tra : " P l e a s e , G o d , d o n' t l e t a ny - thing bad happen today." This plea popped into my head often during my last fe w months of t eachin g. And then I thought: I sure hope I 'm th e only on e in the room thinking about this! W hat an unfair and u n k i n d b u rd e n t o p l a c e on young people's shoul- d ers. S om e a dult s cl aim stu d ent s a re to o y o u n g to understand this issue, and must be overly inf lu- enced by other adults. I w o u l d su g g e st t h a t i t 's the students' own experi- ences that allow them to be more clear-eyed about this topic than the adults who criticize them . The students speak with a wisdom we adults can only hope to emulate. Charleene Puder is a retired first-grade teacher with 30 years of experience in the Franklin-McKinley School District. She served as site rep and was elected to the Franklin-McKinley Education Association Executive Board for two terms. She is a lifetime member of CTA and NEA. "Students speak with a wisdom we adults can only hope to emulate." 18 Perspectives Y O U R V O I C E

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