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Member since: Wed Jan 9, 2008, 11:31 AM
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The school shooting epidemic is traumatizing our kids daily!

I have two kids who are teachers so I am seeing the effects these shootings are having in our schools. The elementary school around the corner from me was put on lock-down last week when SWAT had to deal with an armed criminal holed up in his house around the corner from the elementary school and down the street from me. My son's HS in Austin was on lock-down yesterday and the following is his account of that traumatic event:

There was a lock-down at my school today and they have a suspect in custody. I am told we're safe now, but we still aren't leaving the classroom. I would appreciate if you took the time to read the thoughts I've penned as I sit in my classroom with my nervous students.

The announcement came on, “Turn off all your lights. We are on lockdown. Make sure your doors are locked.” Nervous laughs and whispers rippled through the room. Was it serious? Was it a drill? All of my students, my children, moved quickly to the corner. Except one. Mauricio (not his real name) walked in front of my desk, hidden from the door but next to it. He crouched down in a sprinter’s stance, ready. He didn’t hesitate for a moment. His earbuds were still in.
I wanted everyone to remain calm. I didn’t know if it was a drill or not, but I had a suspicion this was the real thing. I crouched down next to Mauricio. If this 17 year old was willing to sacrifice his life for his classmates, could I, a grown man with a full life behind me, stand in the corner, hiding behind him? I grabbed a pair of red scissors from the plastic cup on my desk and held them tight in my palm.
On the wall across from where we were crouched, I saw the paper plates with our core values we had stapled to the wall so many months ago, at the beginning of the year. Each student decided on a value they wanted to see in the classroom and wrote it on a plate. They stapled their plates to the wall so that each day we could be reminded of the values we strive to live up to: kindness; respect; empathy; honesty; and “Rise up.” One of them said “Joy,” and had a grinning happy face drawn on it in sharpie. I thought of the humans behind each value. The kids behind me now. The kid next to me ready to be a man, ready to sacrifice everything so others could live.
My fist tightened around the scissors, but I couldn't’t help but smile. I knew now what I was willing to do for them. The depths of my love laid bare in a moment of possible crisis. I felt pride mingled with fear for the ones I loved and for myself. Mauricio gave me a pat on the back and some advice to, “Watch for his shadow through the window.”
A child should never have to think such thoughts. No one should have to hide and wonder if death comes for them today--least of all children. We live in the wealthiest, most powerful country on earth, and yet we are too weak to protect our own children. Our hearts are too full of cowardice to give up the false security of a gun for the real security of law. And our weakness fills our children with fear, with anger, and sometimes with bullets.
The minutes ticked by in darkness and silence. My legs started to ache. I could smell the stale sweat collecting on my palms. I stared at the rectangle of light coming in through the window, waiting for the shadow that might end my life.
I checked my watch. It had been 40 minutes. We heard a key in the door and Mauricio jumped. Our principal walked in, “It’s just me guys. You can turn the lights on, but we’re staying in here for now.” Relief flowed through me. I turned to look back at my students. Some of them were drying tears from their eyes. And with their tears, my thoughts turned to anger. Columbine. Sandy Hook. Marjory Stoneman Douglas. How many others? So many that most of us can’t even remember their names, let alone the names of the children whose blood flowed across the tiles of their own classrooms, mingled with the tears of their friends.
Today, my class was going to read “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” Out of all the powerful words Martin Luther King Jr. wrote in that letter, I was most excited for them to read the words, “Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor. It must be demanded by the oppressed.” Little did I know the lesson would become much more personal for them today. But it did because today, our children are oppressed. They are oppressed by fear, by violence, by death, and yes, by guns. Those who advocate the status quo--more dead children day after day; more dark headlines; more thoughts and prayers; and more of the same tired politicians spewing the same tired lies--they only have the power we give them. After today, I am ready to take away the power that my inaction gives them. I know now that I would be willing to sacrifice my life for the lives of my students. So why would I not sacrifice my time, my energy, and the life still beating in my heart in exchange for a meaningful change?
Today, I join the courageous students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas in saying, “Never Again.” I hope you’ll join me too. I’m going to work to organize a protest at the Texas State Capitol, details pending. If you are willing to stand with me, then join us in saying, until we are finally heard, “Never Again.” #NeverAgain
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