Schooled Reporting on education

The cry from the classrooms

Education | Shocked by last week’s school shooting, students are pushing lawmakers to protect them
by Leigh Jones
Posted 2/21/18, 02:10 pm

This could be the start of the #MeToo movement for gun control.

Teenagers across the country still reeling from last week’s mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., skipped class en masse Wednesday to deliver a stinging rebuke to federal and state lawmakers reluctant to impose new restrictions on guns. From Tallahassee, Fla., to Washington, D.C., the students vowed to be the catalyst for a cultural change in the way Americans think about guns.

“This is just a start. I feel like our school isn’t going to stop until there’s change. ... It could’ve been us,” said Reanna Locke, a sophomore at West Boca Raton Community High School in Boca Raton, Fla. “I shouldn’t have to be afraid to go to school. … I shouldn’t feel like I’m in class and one of my classmates is going to pull out a gun and shoot me.”

Locke and hundreds of her schoolmates marched out of class and walked 10 miles to Stoneman Douglas, where 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz killed 17 students and teachers one week ago. It took them three hours. The students chanted “MSD strong!” and carried signs that voiced their frustration over what they see as an imbalance in priorities: “My life is more important than your guns.”

In Tallahassee, about 100 students who survived the shooting in Parkland rallied at the state Capitol and met with lawmakers to demand a ban on assault-style rifles like the AR-15 used in the Parkland shooting. On Tuesday, state lawmakers voted not to consider such a ban, a measure filed at the beginning of the legislative session, long before last week’s shooting.

Anxious not to appear deaf to the students’ pleas, Florida lawmakers are working on a legislative package to address some of the loopholes that facilitated Cruz’s rampage. The restrictions under consideration include creating a waiting period for purchasing any type of firearm, increasing the minimum age for gun purchases to 21, banning bump stocks that allow semi-automatic guns to fire with machine-gun rapidity, and creating gun-violence restraining orders.

Florida lawmakers also will debate boosting spending on school-based mental health programs and giving police the authority to detain someone considered a danger to themselves or others. A more controversial proposal includes deputizing teachers or administrators so that they can legally carry firearms on campus.

But with just a few weeks left in this year’s legislative session, some of those good intentions are bound to fall through the procedural and political cracks. Republican strategist Rick Wilson said he understood the students’ need to be heard, but “the thought that you get to wave a wand and change the law is something that is probably going to collide with reality.”

The students are well aware of the political realities at work against them, especially their state’s strong support for guns. And they seem to understand this won’t be a long-weekend lobbying effort.

“We’re going to talk to these politicians tomorrow. We’re going to talk to them the day after that. We’re going to keep talking, we’re going to keep pushing until something is done because people are dying and this can’t happen anymore,” Alfonso Calderon, a 16-year-old junior from Stoneman Douglas, told students from Tallahassee who greeted the Parkland convoy when it arrived Tuesday night.

Change often takes time, and these students might have to wait longer than they think to see lawmakers united over such a divisive issue, maybe even until they’re the ones holding office and funding political campaigns. But once in a while culture changes rapidly and unexpectedly, leaving people to wonder how something so intractable suddenly moved, like a dam breaking.

Just ask movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, untouchable for years until the #MeToo movement swept him away.

Associated Press/Photo by Dave Collins Associated Press/Photo by Dave Collins Lashawn Robinson (right) with her son Jared outside the Connecticut Capitol in Hartford on Sunday

Desegregation vs. education

Educators in Connecticut are learning a valuable lesson about unintended consequences. Sadly, students from underperforming schools in Hartford are the ones paying the price. Seven African-American and Hispanic families sued state and local officials last week over racial quotas that have kept their students out of popular magnet schools.

Under the terms of a state school desegregation case ruling, the magnet schools are limited to 75 percent minority enrollment. But only 11 percent of Hartford’s students are white, leaving hundreds of seats in the 21 magnet schools unfilled—with a waiting list 3,600 students long. State officials tried last year to raise the magnet schools’ minority cap to 80 percent, which would have opened about 1,200 more seats to minority students. A state judge rejected that request because it would contribute to segregation.

But parents whose students are trapped in underperforming schools are more concerned about their children’s education than the school’s racial makeup. “This case is about my children’s future, and my children’s rights, but it’s also important for all students of all races,” said Lashawn Robinson, a mother of five and one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. “Their race should not be a disadvantage to their ability to receive a quality education.” —L.J.

Hope for bullied students

Florida lawmakers are considering expanding the state’s popular school voucher program to any student subjected to bullying in his or her local public school. If passed, the bill would give students about $6,800 a year to attend the private school of their choice, regardless of the family’s income. Dubbed the “Hope Scholarship,” the program would be the first of its kind in the nation. Lawmakers plan to fund the scholarships with a vehicle registration fee auto buyers would voluntarily direct to the program. Even though it won’t divert any funding already set aside for public schools, teachers unions are opposing the measure, calling it just another attempt to undermine state education. Other critics note such a plan might remove a bullied student from a terrible situation while doing nothing to correct the bully’s behavior. —L.J.

Fighting Ivy League favoritism

Students and alumni from 12 Ivy League colleges are asking school administrators to reconsider “legacy” policies that give admissions preference to applicants with alumni parents. Representatives from campus groups for first-generation students signed the letter, noting legacy policies unfairly exclude too many applicants like them from the nation’s elite universities. They want all applicants considered on equal footing, based on their own merit. The letter is addressed to leaders at Harvard, Brown, Yale, and all other Ivy League schools except Dartmouth College, which does not have an on-campus first-generation student group. —L.J.

‘Why would they change math?!’

We’re super excited at my house about the Incredibles 2 movie coming out this summer. The original offered enough silliness to keep my daughter entertained and enough clever “adult” quips to keep the grown-ups happy. It looks like Disney-Pixar has continued that winning formula with the much-anticipated follow-up. The trailer (see below), which fans of the Winter Olympics might have seen during NBC’s coverage of the games from South Korea last week, offers a laugh line for all parents who have struggled with the “new” (aka Common Core) way they’re teaching math these days. —L.J.

Leigh Jones

Leigh lives in Houston with her husband and daughter. She is the news editor for The World and Everything in It and reports on education for WORLD Digital.

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  • Paul Petry's picture
    Paul Petry
    Posted: Wed, 02/21/2018 03:05 pm

    Lawmakers do not need to protect them. Their own school boards and administrators can take effective measures now to immediately ensure the safety of students at their schools.

    Whatever side of the debate over guns you fall on, one thing is certain: there is no end in sight and while everyone fights for their opinion, schools remain "soft targets" for crazies.

    However, we do not need to change gun laws to initiate common sense solutions that will IMMEDIATELY help save lives. For instance, in the State of Washington, many people believe that the ubiquitous metal detectors installed at the entrance to every courthouse are the result of precautions taken after the 9/11/01 terrorist attacks. Not so.

    The detectors were installed, along with limiting entrance points, following the shooting and murders of two women at the King County courthouse in 1995. Since then, there have been no more shootings by crazies carrying firearms into the courthouses in Washington. It required no new laws or legislative "bans," no debates, no endless court challenges.

    If similar precautions had been in place at the high school in Florida, 17 children would be alive today.

  • Leeper
    Posted: Thu, 02/22/2018 08:17 am

    Schools being gun free zones are preferred targets for killers. I agree with Paul's comments. A common sense approach is allowing school officials with proper training to be armed. All schools should have a safety policy to address these terrible tragedies. Gun controls don't work. Law abiding citizens obey them. Criminals don't.

  • AlanE
    Posted: Thu, 02/22/2018 09:44 am

    In the discussion over what students think ought to be done over the threat of school shootings, it is highly regrettable that CNN apparently chose to mute the voice of at least one who didn't toe the line of expectations. Ultimately, it's the gatekeepers of the media who control this discussion, and, to the extent that happened here, that is unfortunate.

  • AlanE
    Posted: Tue, 02/27/2018 09:07 pm

    Evidently, now the family that claimed CNN was trying to mute their voice admits to altering emails from CNN to buttress their point. So, it would appear that CNN did not engage in the kind of viewpoint discrimination that I suggested in my original comment. 

  • Bear
    Posted: Thu, 02/22/2018 12:29 pm

    I was almost sick to my stomach watching the student demonstrations on national news last night because their "solutions" don't address the real problem, and no one is willing to own up to it: Our culture is messed up!  We have embraced divorce and free sex resulting in fatherless households; we embrace violence in our "games"; we say human life is worthless through abortion and assisted suicide; we've said there is no God and if you think there is, keep it to yourself.  The guns aren't the problem!  It's hopelessness and despair!  THAT is what the students should be demonstrating against, and the adults addressing!

  • Bob C
    Posted: Thu, 02/22/2018 01:48 pm

    Bear, You make some excellent points. In 2017 there were 64,942 babies who never saw the light of day in Florida. Why should anyone care about a mere 17 people when we allow the slaughter of 64,942 human lives?  If there is no God, it is impossible to come up with a reason, all humanity will agree with, to value any human life.  “For they sow the wind and reap the whirlwind”, Hosea 8:7    

  • phillipW's picture
    Posted: Thu, 02/22/2018 01:16 pm

    You would be practicing much better journalism if you opted to omit the name and age of the shooter of the Douglas High School massacre.  These shooters are seeking fame and recognition, and essentially, to be remembered forever.  If you do not publish their names and details, beyond saying, "the shooter", then you help eliminate the fame and recognition that they crave and achieve by perpetrating such evil acts.

  • not silent
    Posted: Fri, 02/23/2018 05:55 pm

    I have heard many people my age complaining about "millenials" and how all they care about are their "lattes" or their video games; however, I think these demonstrations show that they care about a lot more than that.  In fact, I have been very impressed with how passionate and articulate these young people have been in expressing themselves.  In many cases they are walking out with full support of their teachers.  This terrible tragedy caused an incredible amount of fear and emotion in students and teachers; but these kids are not breaking things, they are not looting, they are not stealing, and they are not causing mayhem like some protesters have in the past.  The have a very clear purpose and they are doing what peaceful protesters have done for decades-demanding change.  Some may agree with their suggestions, some may not-and I'm not sure where I stand on all of it, to be honest-but at least they are getting a chance to see how our nation is supposed to work when it actually DOES work.  

    It is true that this situation is very complex and does not just involve gun laws, but guns do have something to do with it. There are many other problems-mental illness and a lack of morality and glorifying violence and bullying and abuse-and we could go on and on.  In fact, maybe we NEED to go on and on until we find solutions for ALL of the factors that are contributing to this. I for one do not ever want to see any more news video of school children coming out of a school with their hands on each others' shoulders or running for their lives or being loaded into emergency vehicles. I understand the desire to deflect to another issue we feel more comfortable with like abortion, because that seems a lot more clear as far as right and wrong.  But there must be a better way to handle this, and surely we as Christians can hit our knees and seek the Lord until we find it.  

    Posted: Thu, 03/01/2018 11:05 am

    If we taught our children a reverence for life, and a more Christlike attitude toward others, the need to control guns, bullying,  bullying, suicide, abortion and assisted medical death for the ill or elderly would be unnecessary.