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Massachusetts Teachers Association

The Bad Man in the School Drill

We have let our nation's children down and this Wednesday they will be showing us the way

Kris LaGrange's picture
Mar 12, 2018

Every morning when I see my children off to school I say I love you and have a good day. As I watch them walk to the bus stop, I often think; will this be the last time I am going to see them? I don't think my parent's generation ever experienced this kind of fear, nor did my grandparents, but this generation does.

People my age and older have let this nation down in more than one way. In the 70s and 80s, our parent's generation gave away the farm and had many of the labor rights that grandpa had fought for taken away. We allowed corporations to run and buy our democracy. We failed in talking to our co-workers and neighbors about the dangers of putting a reality TV star in the White House. We demonize black people when they say their lives matter when it comes to the abuse of police powers. In other words, we really screwed up.
But let's take a look at what our nation's youth are doing, with or without our permission. On Wednesday, March 14th, high schoolers from across the nation will be walking out to demand an end to school shootings. Some will face retaliation, but in facing these adversities these kids are taking a stand, a stand that we have failed to take. Even in Congress, the body that is supposed to be closest to the people, the NRA has bought the House of Representatives. They say that Kirsten Gillibrand has shown leadership, but Gillibrand's claim to fame was battling Trump on Twitter. That's not really leadership, it's more political opportunism. There is an old saying that when the people lead, the leaders will follow. In all my years doing labor communications and politics, I have seen that poetry put into motion many times. So how is this happening now?
I don't think my idiot Uncle in the South who has more guns then dollars in his bank account is going to be walking out of his low wage job in protest of gun violence on Wednesday. But I do know that here in the Empire State, the New York State United Teachers are urging their members to wear orange in a show of solidarity for a very complex yet simple issue. (Please read the text below from a news article where NYSUT explains their position)
This is a noble thing to do, but still, it is not enough. A call by the AFL-CIO to march on the NRA's headquarters is something that we "pinkos" here at UCOMM would love to do, but maybe that's the next call to action. Those of you who have school-age children can almost relate to my desperate attempt for clarity in the tone of this piece. Especially when your kids, like mine, come home and tell us that they did the "bad man" in the school drill. Our kids are walking out of school on Wednesday because they too are sick of the "bad man" in the school drill. I'm sick of the bad men in Washington, I'm sick of 40% of our ranks voting against their own interests, and I'm sick of the god damn NRA. So that's why this Wednesday, myself and the staff of UCOMM will be wearing orange and doing something. We hope that all of you will do something as well.

Carl Korn, spokesman for New York State United Teachers, said the state’s largest teacher union is encouraging its members to wear orange — the color adopted by the Marjory Stoneman Douglas students since the shooting — to honor the lives lost.

“Teachers teach students to be responsible citizens, and to be engaged in our democracy, so we support students when they want to speak out on matters of public importance such as this,” Korn said.

Letters from administrators in some Long Island districts have emphasized the potential for disciplinary measures.

Brenden Cusack, principal of Huntington High School, wrote that “an absence from class will not be considered an excused absence.” He also wrote: “Students may not disrupt the educational process and may not infringe upon the rights of others who choose not to participate.”

Any walkout “will be monitored” by school staff, and a staging area on campus will be provided. “Students may not leave campus at any time during this event,” Cusack’s letter read.

On Tuesday night, on the eve of the walkouts, Huntington is hosting a forum called “How Can We Stop Mass Shootings in Our Communities” that will be moderated by students.

In Rocky Point, Superintendent Michael Ring’s letter to the community said “organized student-led building walkouts, such as those being discussed nationally via social media, are not a viable option for our schools . . . No Rocky Point student will be permitted to leave the premises as part of any of these upcoming events” without appropriate permission.

The School Administrators Association of New York State, in a letter of recommendations published on the organization’s website, wrote about its research into ways that schools should handle planned student action.

“We have concluded that there is no one ‘correct’ approach,” the organization wrote. It also suggested that schools meet with their attorneys, and that various questions needed to be addressed: “Can you make a ‘walkout’ an optional school event? Should you? Is it OK with the district and student leaders? Does it have to be outside or could there be an inside assembly point?”

Seventeen crosses bearing the names and ages of those killed in last month's shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. were hung overnight from a Louisville billboard that advertises a local gun show. A spokeswoman for billboard owner Outfront Media said Sunday March 11 that the crosses would be removed. Scott Utterback Courier Journal via AP

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