As educators, we see the devastating, emotional side effects that manifest inside of the classroom as a result of gun violence within our communities every single day. Students who are left to cope with this trauma, often times alone, have trouble focusing and committing themselves to their studies, may experience depression, anxiety, unmanageable anger, post-traumatic stress syndrome, and ultimately, they may also engage in violent acts.
The psychological impact of gun violence is often overlooked unless it is spoken about in broader terms to relate to mass shootings within schools. According to various studies conducted, many of our youth are overexposed to violence as a result of guns, which infiltrate the community illegally. Furthermore, “25% of children nationwide will witness an act of violence in their homes, schools, or community this year, while 5% of children nationwide will witness a shooting”. More alarmingly, “1 in 20 high school students have carried a gun outside the home” and an estimated, “5.6% of students report missing at least one day of school because they were afraid for their safety”. (McLean Hospital)
Nothing about the above statistics are okay and yet every day, they get worse. It can not be denied that gun violence is linked to poverty and inequality and this often times starts with education or lack thereof. Furthermore, lack of authentic investment in our communities lead to dilapidated neighborhoods where violence and poverty thrive, until the area is deemed worthy to invest in as a result of gentrification. As so many of the youth around the city struggle within our schools and eventually drop out, opportunities become few and hope begins to wane. This can lead to feelings of inadequacy, hopelessness, and despair which can lead to decisions which result in the high rates of homicide we see within our city today. Yet, instead of addressing education and the inadequate funding and curriculum that can lead to these circumstances, our society would rather spend more on incarceration.
We, educators, believe that addressing gun violence is paramount to our mission as public servants, and we will not be silent.
If we adequately fund our schools, if we put more counselors and psychologists within our schools, if we developed a multicultural authentic learning curriculum that caught the interest of all our students, if we developed more trade/training programs, if we invested in more organizations to go into the community to provide jobs, we know that the incidences of gun violence and violence, in general, would dramatically drop around our city.
Every child deserves to be able to walk to the park, walk to school, go to a movie theater or supermarket or anywhere and not have to worry about being shot, or witnessing someone get shot.
Every child deserves to grow up in a world where they are able to succeed because of their environment and not in spite of their environment.
Educators have a unique opportunity to speak up on this issue, to discuss the grief and the trauma that we’ve born witness to, and to discuss the grief and the trauma that is crippling our children. We must do so now. We can no longer be silent.
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Melanated Educators CollectiveRacial Justice Committee of the Caucus of Working EducatorsCaucus of Working Educators