As the latest elementary school shooting unfolded on Tuesday, I heard the same words over and over again:
Nineteen elementary school children and two teachers were killed at the hands of an 18-year-old gunman, a high school student who police believe also shot his grandmother, and later law enforcement authorities shot and killed her at the scene.
While we are suffering from the recent shootings in Buffalo where 10 people were killed, this devastating reminder of our weakness, the toll gun violence, at historic heights, in a country where armed assassins are devouring us all. Enters our school in public and shoots innocent children.
Again? Still? Speechless
It was Fred Gutenberg, an anti-gun activist whose 14-year-old daughter, Jaime Taylor Gutenberg, was shot dead during a 2018 Parkland school shooting in Florida, who first tweeted the word “speechless” in response. Many more followed.
A few hours later, Gutenberg found a more powerful sound during an appearance on MSNBC. “People have failed. They failed our kids, “Gutenberg said angrily.” I’m finished. I was it. And how many times? How Many more times? “
The Uvalde school shooting turned into the 27th, the second deadliest in the United States after 26 people were killed at the 2014 Sandy Hook School in Connecticut. Like parents, teachers and students across the country, Gutenberg is increasingly outraged. So is President Joe Biden, who declared in an emotional, televised speech, “I’m sick and tired of it.”
“People have failed. They have failed our baby. I’m finished. I had it. How many more times? How Many more times?
Fred Gutenberg, father, Parkland Florida
So is Jennifer Eve Rich, an assistant professor at the College of Education at Rowan University in Pennsylvania, who helps teachers talk to children about gun violence and who finds herself at an early loss for words. Rich told me he was “broken by the relentlessness” of the mass school shooting.
“We recoup from one tragedy to another: shots, shots, the war in Ukraine, more shots … it’s hard to breathe, just know how to fight for what’s important,” he said.
The latest horrific shooting comes at a dark time of loss and suffering for many Americans, scaring and frightening our kids. Many have already struggled emotionally since the epidemic; In addition to the academic gap, their teachers are seeing more and more psychological challenges, as well as declining social skills due to epidemic isolation and loneliness.
Related: We know how to help young children cope with last year’s trauma but will we do it?
Mental health challenges such as certain types of crime, violence and inflation are also on the rise. Tired public school teachers find themselves drawn into a cultural war, with Republican lawmakers pushing and censoring laws in the name of protecting so-called “parental rights.”
No wonder many of us look in the mirror at America, trembling at the sight of us looking back.
Many parents, academics and Democratic politicians are joining Biden’s call for stricter gun control legislation, but few are optimistic. “In the coming days and weeks, Republicans will not be able to hide from the questions parents across the country are asking: What are you doing to prevent shootings at the next school?” Washington State Senator Patty Murray said in a statement. “What are you doing to protect our kids so they can go to school without fear?”
Teachers have also weighed in on the demand for stricter gun laws. “This kind of tragedy happens when elected officials do nothing; Also, in the case of Texas, make firearms more available, ”the National Education Association said in a joint statement with the Texas State Teachers Association. “How many more shots need to be fired before these lawmakers finally take responsibility and address the issue of gun safety?”
Related: Opinion: We can’t afford tough decisions about gun violence
So what next?
“We need to close a reactionary approach,” Jacqueline Shieldcrout, an associate professor at New York State University in Oswego and an expert on gun violence, told me. “Instead of engaging in the same dialogue after each of these shots but failing to make any meaningful change, we need to take proactive action based on what we know about previous tragedies… which could prevent the next one from happening.”
Meanwhile, Jennifer Rich says she is still answering questions from her 11-year-old son, who was just a kid at the 2014 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. She remembers her eldest son, then giving a heartbreaking explanation in kindergarten.
“We recoup from one tragedy to another: Covid, shots, war in Ukraine, more shots … it’s hard to breathe, know how to fight for what’s important.”
Jennifer Eve Rich, Professor, Rowan University
“After all these mass shootings, after all these years, it’s not easy,” Rich said. “I look at my own kids’ faces, and notice that their eyes look incredibly young when they’re scared.”
And when many teachers call Rich to explain the school shooting, this time, he’s struggling with the initial urge to remain silent, because he’s sure he’ll have to talk about it – over and over again, until something changes.
“I told my son that it was true that a primary school in Texas had been shot. I told him, in response to further questions, I don’t know why this happened, or why people want guns that can kill so many people, “Rich said.
He then gave her the same advice that she requested other parents and teachers to accept.
“I reminded her that the adults at her school will always try their best to keep her safe and I trust her. I told her it was my job to think about it, and if she could, she should give it to me.
Produced this story about school shooting Hatchinger report, A non-profit, independent news organization focusing on inequality and innovation in education. Sign up for us Weekly newsletter.