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Grauer Student Flies to DC for Gun Violence Summit:
"It will have to come from our kids."

"If anything can be learned from our bill of rights, let it be this: listen to the youth."
-Sophie S.

I. Beware of people with theories. We've all got a few.

One theory I held for a long time was, "It's a free country. We should be able to do [this and that."] A lot of us live in the world of "shoulda-oughtta." "This is America! We oughtta be able to pack a gun!" Then you read this interview:

"As a mom whose baby boy went to school one day and never came home, I'm so moved by your dedication to protecting other parents from the agony of losing a child to gun violence" (Nicole Hockley, mom of Dylan, shot dead at school in Sandy Hook).

And you read a few other things. In the year 2017, the number of gun deaths in the United States was about the same as the number of civilians killed by terrorists over the entire world [1, 2]. If the National Rifle Association or the U.S. branch of the neo-Nazis were operating in the Middle East or, say, France, here is what we would call them: "terrorists".

Just this week, Nicole Hockley is writing:

"My heart shattered when I learned 11 people had been murdered and six were wounded at the Tree of Life synagogue on Saturday. I send my deepest love to their families, to the Jewish community and to the city of Pittsburgh – I know their pain all too well."

Maybe we're hopeless, but maybe our kids aren't. I think: this is going to have to come from our kids. For example, some Grauer School students have joined "Team Enough," a diverse group of young voices that have united to create a platform in the fight against gun violence. Team Enough is working for a better theory. That's what Team Enough member Sophie S. (class of 2020) was doing several weeks ago, flying to Washington, D.C., to raise awareness about the impact of guns on this free country of ours.

II. Please read Sophie's coverage of this great event:

The Student Gun Violence Summit
by Sophie S. (Class of 2020)

On October 20th, 2018, students and educators from across the country came together for the Student Gun Violence Summit in Washington, D.C. The goal of this weekend-long event was not to end gun violence in a matter of two days but to create a comprehensive plan of action in the form of a Student Bill of Rights for participants to bring back to their own communities.

As a member of the San Diego chapter of Team Enough, a national group of young activists dedicated to gun violence prevention, I had the opportunity to attend the summit as a student delegate.


Throughout the first day, we discussed the many elements of gun violence prevention- legislation, mental health, community strategies, and school strategies. Between group discussions, the event hosted panelists who spoke on the faces of gun violence, the evolution of the Second Amendment, and policies that have worked to reduce gun violence throughout the world. These panels included students and teachers from schools across the country as well as experts from national gun violence prevention organizations.

The purpose of this first day was to give us the knowledge and space to explore ideas needed to complete the main goal of the event: The Students' Bill of Rights. The discussions that took place were not only valuable in shaping our final document but in creating a lasting impression on everyone present. The wide range of personal stories shared in our conversations was, by far, the most valuable part of this summit. Only with such a variety of voices could such nuanced discussions have developed. In the community workshop, for example, the conversation focused on places, specifically communities of color, where gun violence happens every day but is not highlighted by the media. Students in this workshop shared stories that had been previously unheard, stories that sound shocking to those of us who live in relatively safe communities but are part of daily life for others. These are students whose biggest fears related to gun violence lie not within the classroom but on the daily walk home from school.

One of the most impactful moments for me was the discussion on mental health. During our conversation, students spoke about the lack of qualified and accessible mental health professionals in their schools. Even at schools where shootings have taken place, where trauma is now a part of everyday life for many students, qualified counselors on campus are a rarity. Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where 17 students and staff members were shot and killed on February 14, 2018, shared that when the school has "code red" drills, students flood into the wellness center, triggered by the sound of the fire alarm.

...stories that sound shocking to those of us who live in relatively safe communities but are part of daily life for others.

Gun violence is something that we frequently look at in terms of quantitative data - how many injured, how many dead. The numbers alone are shocking. But the numbers can't tell us everything. You can't quantify the impact of gun violence; you can't quantify pain. Hearing from a student who once thought he was texting his mother his final goodbye, or a teacher who read stories to her children, hidden in a closet while an active shooter was on campus, you learn what the numbers can't give you. The voices and actions of survivors are the driving forces behind this movement.


The second day of the summit, we gathered to compile our ideas into one document. We broke out into small groups to develop specific points- related to legislation, community, mental health, and school strategies- before presenting these points to the larger group. The process was student-led, managed by the student advisory board for the event. After we had discussed all of the points and listened to all opinions, we voted to ratify our fourteen-point plan of action for addressing the issue of gun violence in America. The final bill of rights can be found on the The Action Network, where it is posted as a petition.

Throughout the weekend, I was fortunate enough to meet people whom I'll never forget. I am beyond inspired by the students across the country standing up to gun violence, especially those who are turning their own grief and pain into action. Their courage and resilience truly embody everything that we fight for, and I'm lucky to call these fearless activists my friends and allies. The beauty of this movement is that everyone has a role to play; we are students, teachers, artists, writers, speakers.

The topics that we spoke about at the summit were not always easy to discuss. Sometimes, in the area of gun violence prevention, we encounter the sentiment that we're speaking about something we shouldn't be, that it's 'too sad' or 'too political.' My response is that this is a conversation we have to be having. Personally, I feel that I owe it to survivors of gun violence to help them fight to ensure that what happened at their schools, in their communities, never happens again.

The Students' Bill of Rights for Safer Communities is the result of these hard conversations and of youth activism- not a new phenomenon, but one that has begun to take on an increasing role in modern U.S. politics. In creating this bill of rights, it is our hope that our communities can take meaningful steps to address and reduce gun violence in the United States through legislature as well as social action. If anything can be learned from our bill of rights, let it be this: listen to the youth.

You can show your support, and your commitment to reducing gun violence, by reading and signing the "Student Bill of Rights for Safer Communities" that was created by the students at the Student Gun Violence Summit.
View the Students' Bill of Rights for Safer Communities

Thank you, Sophie. At The Grauer School, we say: action is the highest form of learning, and this is great scholarship. Here are some articles recommended by the kids from "Team Enough":

The New York Times, "It's Time to Talk About the N.R.A.", October 29, 2018

Time Magazine, "Guns Have Divided America. Here's What Happens When 245 People Try to Meet in the Middle", October 25, 2018

New York Magazine - Intelligencer, "The Class of 1946–2018, Twenty-seven school-shooting survivors bear their scars, and bear witness", October 28, 2018


III. Some History:

Who likes data? White supremacists and other far-right extremists have killed far more people since Sept. 11, 2001, than any other category of domestic extremists. 71 percent of the extremist-related fatalities in the United States between 2008 and 2017 were committed by members of the far right or white-supremacist movements. Islamic extremists were responsible for just 26 percent.[3, 4] Of the 154 mass shootings recorded so far this year in 2018, none were perpetrated by women, blacks or undocumented immigrants. What other nation is even remotely like this? Americans make up about 4.4 percent of the global population but own 42 percent of the world's guns. From 1966 to 2012, 31 percent of the gunmen in mass shootings worldwide were American.

We cry out for mental health help. But Americans do not have higher mental illness rates—4% of gun deaths in America are mental illness related [5]. As of this writing, the most recent mourning is over the attack and killing of 11 worshippers in a Pittsburgh synagogue by a man using an assault rifle and three Glock handguns, all legally purchased.

Since Sandy Hook, the truth is out in America: killing children is the normal cost of doing business. It's the voice of freedom.

We can all get insight into "Know the Signs" programs. I recommend this 80 second video. I don't think I'll ever forget this one: https://www.sandyhookpromise.org/tomorrowsnews

Thank you for reading and caring about discovery-based, compassionate education!

[1] Jane's Terrorism and insurgency Centre, Washington Post, "Every 2017 terrorist attack, mapped", January 2018

[2] The Trace, "Gun Deaths Increased in 2017, Gun Violence Archive Data Show", September 27, 2018

[3] The New York Times Magazine, "U.S. Law Enforcement Failed to See the Threat of White Nationalism. Now They Don't Know How to Stop It.", November 3, 2018

[4] The New York Times, "It's Time to Talk About the N.R.A.", October 29, 2018

[5] "What Explains U.S. Mass Shootings? International Comparisons Suggest an Answer", November 7, 2017


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