As a nation, we are all heartbroken by the events that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14 in Newtown, Connecticut. We all likely did what the President suggested Friday evening – we hugged our children a little tighter and reaffirmed our love for them. We now have the opportunity as a country to love and protect our children even more. It is impossible to make sense of the tragic ending of these precious lives, but our grief can be tempered by the hope that their loss will be a catalyst to strengthen our individual and community resolve on several issues:
- America’s Teachers and Education Professionals are Heroes:
For the past several years, we have witnessed teachers’ commitment to our children discredited, their profession degraded and increasingly blamed for the systemic failures of our education system. Yet, as was the case at Sandy Hook, teachers are committed and dedicated to our children every day. They are our nation’s heroes who are too often not only called to be educators, but also counselors and, as we saw in Connecticut, protectors of our children. They deserve a stature in our society on par with that of firefighters, soldiers, and doctors. America is safer and more prosperous because of the work they do and the daily sacrifices they make. Let’s never resort to attacking them, but instead always seek to support them toward building a greater educational future for our children.
- Hurt Children Can Become Hurt People:
For far too long we have neglected to care for the holistic needs of our children who, in turn, become the adults in our society. In education, we have too aggressively focused on meeting standards while neglecting to provide the full complement of wraparound supports necessary to address the needs of our children and equip them with the tools to achieve success in school and in life. In addition to academic supports, we at the Schott Foundation have urged districts and states to provide social, emotional, and health supports to students in need. Students who face standards without these necessary supports can feel isolated, hurt, and are often rejected by their peers and educational system. Whether that results in children dropping out, being incarcerated, or harming others, each is a tragic outcome that our schools, with the right supports, are positioned to prevent. Public education is one of the few institutions in American society that practically all of us will walk through — as a result it is a key intervention point to identify and address problems before they become crises, warning signs before they become tragedies.
- Simply Stated, We Need Gun Control:
Many institutions may shy away from the issue of gun control, saying that now is not the time nor is it their issue. But at Schott we think the moment could not be more perfect. The President has rightfully committed to use every tool in his executive powers to ensure this type of tragedy is avoided, and we absolutely need comprehensive gun control at the Federal level. However, governors, state legislators, mayors, city councilmembers and parents don’t need to wait for the President or Congress. Several years ago, Mayor Michael Bloomberg became a leader on this issue, putting in place more stringent gun policies in New York City. Your community could and should as well. There should be Newtown model gun reform legislation in states and towns across the nation. Now is the time to act.
Dr. King once noted that time is neutral: it can be used for evil or for good, but to the degree that it isn’t used for good it can become an ally of evil. We have an opportunity as communities to put in place the policies and practices to support our children inside and outside of their schools. This is an opportunity we were too late in seizing for 27 in Newtown, but we should not waste the chance we have to transform our own communities into new towns built on the sacrifice, dedication, love and the support we provide our nations greatest asset: our children.