- About 100 students met in Washington, D.C., this weekend to draft and ratify a Students' Bill of Rights on School Safety, which advocates for more gun control laws and mental health resources in schools, The 74 reports.
- The bill has 15 points, including required universal background checks, creating a 10-day waiting period to purchase firearms, immediate access to qualified school counselors, and enough funding for schools to install safety and security measures, as well as an increase in the minimum purchase age for weapons from 18 to 21.
- The students — which included a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and others who have personal connections to gun violence — met at Dunbar High School for a three-day conference filled with education sessions and small working groups, and students hope that despite the politicization of gun issues, their efforts get through to all politicians, even those who oppose gun control.
This conference in the nation's capital is the latest of a slew of student activism since a February mass shooting at Florida's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Students from across the country have since traveled to major cities to take part in marches and protests, and schools have held walkouts of their own to take a stand on gun violence and gun control. Though months have passed since the Valentine's Day shooting, the Stoneman Douglas students and other supporters have managed to keep the conversation going, unlike with similar events in the past.
As these student activists continue calling on local, state and national leaders to do something, the burning question remains to be whether this activism is working, are politicians paying attention, will any policies emerge, and what is the role of educators and administrators?
To some degree, the activism is working. About six months after the Parkland shooting, states had passed 50 new gun control laws, and much of this was traced back to the movement started by student survivors. But since then, gun control policy has had a murkier path: Gun control support has faded,a federal school safety commission formed in the wake of the shooting said gun control was beyond its scope, and U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has considered a plan to let states use federal funds to arm teachers.
It's likely that this bill of rights and continued advocacy will get national attention and, by extension, reach the eyes of politicians, but it's unclear whether it will spur policy changes. However, with education as a top issue in this year's midterm elections, and with a wave of teachers entering the political ring, educators have the power to take a greater role in the debate and be in a position to create actual change.
Even those who aren't running for office have the power to make their voices, as well as their students' voices, heard.By teaching civic engagement and how social movements and protests have inspired change in the past — just as a Massachusetts middle school does — school leaders can be partners and allies in empowering students, as well as the broader school community, to make their voices heard.