#Parkland Survivors: Ignore the Haters
Kids Making A Difference
Why We Need To Talk About It
On February 14, 2018, the lives of every student attending Parkland, Florida's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School were irretrievably changed when a gunman opened fire and ended the lives of 17 students and school staff. This was no accidental discharge of a firearm, and it wasn't in the middle of a war zone.
It's an incident which, like too many others before it, has changed the landscape of safety in education.
It's incidents like these which have changed the language that I and other teachers use when we're talking about keeping our students safe while getting an education. Alongside the routine cautions about where to assemble in the event of a fire drill and what to do if we're told to shelter in place, I now have to incorporate instructions about a Code Red - basically, a situation where someone is in the school looking to do some physical harm to others, and generally with some sort of a weapon. I emphasize the need for silence, the need to keep phones off, and the need to stay out of sight. Thankfully, it's not a situation I've had to deal with beyond a drill in my career, but the fact that we even have to discuss it is a heartrending acknowledgement of how much things have changed since I was a kid.
When I heard about the Parkland shooting, I felt sick. These were teenagers, no different than the ones I teach daily except by virtue of their location, and no different than my 13-year-old daughter, who will be entering high school next year. I don't live in the United States, but I knew how the script was likely to play out. There would be all kinds of thoughts and prayers from every corner of society, especially the politicians, and absolutely no changes to the gun laws in the States.
Let me be clear: I have no problem with responsible gun ownership. I have no problems with individuals who go hunting responsibly, or with people who competitively shoot. Hell, I know people who do these things, and these are some of the best educated individuals about responsible firearms ownership I know.
But when we're talking putting a firearm in the hands of a kid who may or may not have mental health issues that go beyond the pale - kids who have a history of violence, as Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz allegedly did - that's a whole different story.
We need to talk about gun ownership, guns and gun violence in a responsible manner, without attacking victims. We can support responsible gun ownership without attacking those who own guns in general, and we can have a healthy debate about what responsible gun ownership actually looks like.
We can't, and we shouldn't, attack survivors of gun violence, particularly on the scale that the Parkland survivors - or any other survivor of a school shooting, for that matter - have gone through. Even those innocents who get caught in the crossfire simply because they live in a dangerous area because there's no place else for them to go - we can't just blindly attack because they are actually taking a stand on gun violence.
They're kids, and they have a right to fight for their lives.
A Teacher Who Influenced Student Activists
They're Making A Difference
The sad thing is, these survivors of the Parkland tragedy are being vilified by some individuals, such as Laura Ingraham and Ted Nugent, because their voices are at least being heard.
Ingraham and Nugent have mostly focused their sights on David Hogg, a high school senior who has emerged as one of the leaders of the student activists that have come out following the Parkland shooting. Also, what Ingraham and Nugent have said is really irrelevant; the point is, we live in a world where teenagers in particular are criticized for being disengaged and uninvolved in the world around them. Now, we have a crew of teens who are doing things that are incredibly remarkable, and there are those who are choosing to attack one of them for it simply because what he's saying flies in the face of what they believe.
Laura Ingraham is 54; Ted Nugent, 69. While I am most certainly not saying that they don't have the right to question or even criticize what Hogg or any other kid his age and younger are saying, there's a difference between being critical and being downright nasty. Critical dialogue generally has the hallmark of inviting further discussion; Ingraham attacked Hogg not for his activism in the wake of February's shooting, but for the fact that he has reportedly received four rejection letters even though his GPA sits at around 4.2 - according to PrepScholar, "A 4.2 indicates that you are earning Bs and B+s in high level classes or As and A+s in mid level classes." Given what Hogg has been through, the fact that his marks continue to be so good is incredible, yet he was attacked for it.
Nugent was not so "polite." He has scorned Hogg for being "brainwashed." As an outspoken NRA advocate, this comes as little surprise, but when an adult attacks a teenager for trying to make a difference, there's a problem.
Hogg has said that he is a supporter of safe gun ownership, but continues to be denigrated for his work with the other Parkland survivors in lobbying the government for gun reform. Here's the thing - he and the other survivors are seeing issues with the gun laws in the United States, everyone is seeing that there continues to be school shootings - there have been at least nine situations of gun-related violence at schools since Parkland - and these kids from Parkland are working towards something where parents won't have to worry about whether they will see their kids at the end of a school day.
These survivors are trying to work towards something where they can, and other kids can, feel safe again walking school hallways without having to worry about Code Reds or anything like that.
Isn't that something positive? Something that we can all respect - the drive and determination to make the world a better place, rather than the drive to see video game scores improve?
The fact that Ingraham, Nugent, and other adults like them are choosing to attack rather than dialogue with these kids means there continues to be a long way to go. What's being lost by some of these adults is that it's all right to have a disagreement due to a difference of opinion. It's not even a little bit OK to attack someone because their ideas are different than yours.
These Parkland survivors - and those who have aligned themselves with them - should be respected and admired for their determination to try and make a difference, so that other kids like them won't have to live through the horror of a school shooting, as they have done. Disagree if you want, but don't attack.
At the end of the day, it's about kids being safe.