Will this be the century of gun violence in schools? Already, since the Columbine High School shootings on April 20, 1999, over 210,000 students on 93 campuses have experienced gun violence while attending school, enough to fill 350 of those double decker 747’s.
The number of students impacted directly is larger than we imagined, but it includes those exposed to shootings. While not killed, many exposed to violence were mentally and emotionally wounded with scars that may never heal.
The Washington Post has put together a remarkable graphic and analysis of these seemingly endless shootings.
We gag at how blithely presidents and vice presidents, governors and other elected officials offer only “thoughts and prayers” to the families of those who have been impacted by gun violence. Of course, none of them disclose the nature of their prayers: we do know that most of them worship the NRA and Second Amendment, but who they pray to and the content of those prayers is a mystery. Are these prayers ecumenical? Latitudinarian? Catholic? Universal? Is the “Lord’s Prayer” looped into this process—something about “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”?
The “thoughts” part of this equation is less troubling: that seems natural and more welcoming. But it seems to us that those impacted by school shootings would forgo the prayers and thoughts in exchange for concrete action on gun management issues that the overwhelming percent of Americans support—but one handful of members of Congress block.
Then there is just arrogant bad behavior with guns. This is happening now: a man is checking out the views of a prospective son-in-law while pointing an assault weapon at him. The kid gets all the answers right. It’s a political ad, so the voters get to decide if this is the kind of guy who should be running for public office.
We saw part of what we would consider a long-term solution emerge at the March for Our Lives this past spring in Washington, DC. The students from the Newtown, Connecticut shooting presented a banner to the students from Parkland, Florida school shooting. The banner/flag was Newtown’s way of saying we are with you and here is a reminder of our pledge—prayers with roots.
We have high hopes for this idea of exchanging a tangible reminder of the violence. We would love to see every school district in America adopt one kid who has been killed or impacted directly by school shootings. Then we propose a National School Violence Prevention Day where each of these schools holds a ceremony of their choosing to honor the memory of that lost student. A memorial of the school’s making would be a source of information about that student, who she or he was, what they liked to do, where they were born, what their favorite video game was, who they thought was the best guard in the NBA or WNBA, or is Messi better than Ronaldo, their favorite snack, who’s on their play list.
Our confidence in this being a workable solution is the success students in Ireland and France have had remembering individual soldiers who were killed during WW1.
In Ireland all 32 counties have such a memorial in their schools. So a soldier who was killed is no longer just a statistic but a real person in history, maybe a hometown lad who had his last pint at McDonald’s, the pub. These students keep their 100 year-old heroes alive, and freedom is no longer an abstract idea, but one payed for with Irish blood.
The same kind of activity is done in France. Here a community remembers the Australians who fought and died to liberate their village.
These school children are pictured above.
The news account says: “There is little to distinguish the village of Villers-Bretonneux in northern France from any other hamlet about the Somme but for its numerous references to Australia, from flags in shop windows and its streets named after Aussie cities.
On April 24-25, 1918 the village was the scene of the world’s first tank battle between British and German troops which the Germans would win and occupy the township only to then face two Australian brigades in counter attack.
By the end of the battle, there were 2400 Australian casualties with the decisive battle marking the end of the German advance in the Somme.”
Raphael Teixera, a 10 year-old from L’Ecole Victoria, is one of those younger generations who appreciated what went on and what it means. “Because you helped us we are here and we learn about the war to remember you help us,” he said.