Friday Reading List: Walkouts, Walkouts, Walkouts

Sarah Darville and Matt Barnum of Chalkbeat collected stories and pictures from this week's student walkouts:

Students across America left their classrooms on Wednesday to take part in a national protest pushing for stricter gun laws and memorializing those who died in last month’s school shooting in Florida. The event was rare in its scope, with students from hundreds of schools leaving class for at least 17 minutes in memory of the 14 teens and three teachers killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland one month ago. The event continued throughout the day, with students walking out at 10 a.m. local time across the country.

The most powerful thing about these actions is that they're student led. The wiser adults among us are supporting that energy. Dana DiFilippo of WHYY in Philadelphia talked to Sharif El-Mekki, a local high school principal:

 “Any complex issue requires complex responses.” Gun violence should be investigated as a public health issue, El-Mekki said. And access also deserves scrutiny. “Even as a gun owner, I feel like it’s far too easy for people to obtain guns.” He supports waiting periods and background checks — but definitely not arming teachers. “It’s very interesting that you can go to urban environments and see metal detectors and guards and police, but where these kind of incidents are occurring, people aren’t even proposing that. They say: ‘oh, arm teachers!’ But that’s America’s response to everything: You have a problem with somebody, add more guns. You have a problem with another country, add more guns. America’s response to anything is add guns to the situation, and they don’t care about the proximity of children or the sanctity of a school.”

In the interest of full disclosure, El-Mekki is on the board of directors of the nonprofit foundation where I serve as chief operating officer. I recently sat down with some of the young people in his school, who have been working as activists in their own communities. They were extremely confident in their positions on gun violence, and their grasp of the issue was far more sophisticated than that of most adults I encounter. In addition to their clarity on policy solutions, they were insistent that the movement to prevent gun violence include their stories. While every student I spoke with had a story of how gun violence affected his or her life, none of that violence happened during a mass shooting. 

It is important for advocates, activists, and policymakers alike to remember that the vast majority of gun-related injuries and deaths do not occur during mass shootings, but rather are the result of quotidian handgun encounters, domestic violence, and suicides. It is telling, though, that the media and American public conspire to emphasize those few episodes that involve predominantly privileged communities. As the campaign to end gun violence intensifies, and this generation's young people take their place as leaders of that endeavor, I hope to see many more black and brown young people in leadership positions, because the current infrastructure and leadership of the gun violence prevention world is overwhelmingly white.

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For other coverage of the walkouts, check out The New York Times, Citizen Ed, The Root, The Atlantic, and anywhere else that covers actual news.

Finally this week, Chris Stewart in is Citizen Ed with some real talk about real estate and schools:

We can say public education shouldn’t pick winners and losers, and I’ll agree, but that doesn’t change reality. Parents who don’t actively choose schools are vulnerable to irrevocable losses. As the cliche says, childhood has no rewind. For decades black families have faced this quandary as they moved out of urban areas in search of safer communities with better services. I can’t speak for them, but there seems to be a suggestion that we sacrifice our kids for the “greater good”; that we take one for the team and stay put in redlined neighborhoods. If you want me to compromise my kids’ life chances in service of the greater good, my response is, “You go first.”

Have a great weekend!