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OPINION on GUNS: Local youth, and all of us, should get involved

Let me be direct, Arlington students: A gun is pointed at you, and what are you going to do about it?

UPDATED, March 3: This is not how school leaders here have framed their initial appeals following the massacre of 17 students and staff at a Florida high school named for a legendary environmental activist. 

They prefer to point to safety measures already in place, and they do acknowledge the spreading fear that the latest account of gun deaths at a school breeds.

"The safety and well-being of our students is our first priority," Superintendent Kathleen Bodie wrote in a Feb. 15 email to parents and guardians. "We have in place emergency protocols and regular practice drills to respond quickly in the event of an emergency/incident."

All to the good.

School walkout March 14 announced

Isabella Dray of Arlington High School announced March 3 that on March 14 AHS students will hold a #NeverAgain school walkout demanding that Congress combat gun violence with reasonable and prompt reforms.

national walkout

This walkout will take place at 10 a.m. on the front steps of the high school. All AHS students, staff and community allies are encouraged to participate in this nonpartisan event.

Our walkout will feature a moment of silence honoring the lives of all victims of gun violence and will be followed by remarks from students in our high school. We would love to have community members in attendance supporting our efforts. Signs are encouraged. 

What helps us feel safe?Join the Gun Control Rally March 24
If you want to support the efforts of the students who survived the Parkland, FL high school shootings, check out their website and Facebook page. They are planning a rally in Washington, DC but other cities will hold their own rallies that day, including one in Boston.

Sign up on Facebook for the Boston March.  
Or sign up for the one in DC here.  

Moms Demand Action MA: another gun control group 
For a more local organization and their events check out their Facebook page

Globe, Feb. 23: Teachers balk at plan to arm them

The statement continues: "How can parents and school staff help students feel safe in the wake of this tragedy? Suggestions from experts in the field include:

"* Turn off or monitor the television. Endless news programs are likely to heighten anxiety, and young children cannot distinguish between images on television and their personal reality."

The list continues (the whole statement is included below as well as one from the principal), but let me stop there. Turning off media can calm you. Doing that can also escape the continuing murderous record of gun violence in this country -- one aided by politicians kneeling down before the National Rifle Association and its outdated claims about the Second Amendment.

When does calm become escapism?

Steps to take locally

Continual exposure to media accounts can also numb you, but you can keep in touch with the news -- and also consider potential action you can take to respond to it.

-- Look for local groups that extend your voice. One is Arlington Indivisible. It has appealed to local young people to attend its 12:30 p.m. March 4 meeting at the Fox Library. Contact Vanessa Steck at vsteck[@]

-- Considering gathering students you know and attending the March 24 "March for Our Lives" rallies in Washington and major cities, including Boston, to demand action on gun violence. Helping to organize the events is Cameron Kasky, a junior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., where the 17 killings occurred.

"This is about us begging for our lives," Kasky said in a Washington Post account in The Boston Globe. "This isn’t about the GOP. This isn't about the Democrats. This is about us creating a badge of shame for any politicians accepting money from the NRA and using us as collateral."

Andover High action

Why can't students in Arlington take action following the February break the way those at Andover High School did Friday, Feb. 16?

In a statement that day, Superintendent Sheldon Berman and Principal Philip Conrad said: "This afternoon, a group of well over 100 students gathered in the cafeteria, with the support of administrators and faculty, to have an open discussion around the critical and troubling issue of gun violence in American schools.

"Earlier today, student leaders approached staff with their plan to leave their last class of the day in order to host this discussion. Staff members worked cooperatively with them to facilitate a peaceful and thoughtful conversation on how they were impacted by the shooting earlier this week at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida.

"I am proud of our students for their conscientious approach to this issue and for their desire to share their feelings and concerns in an open forum, and I sincerely hope that families will facilitate their students in similar conversations at home.

"Nothing is more important than ensuring that our students feel safe at school, that their voices are heard and taken seriously, and that they are actively involved in the school community. Today's dialogue was an important part of achieving that mission."

Officials supported peaceful, thoughtful conversation by students.

Why this is not so far away

A gun is pointed at you. What are you going to do about it?

Are you going to sit back and take it? Are you thinking: All this was so far away; it couldn't happen here. In liberal Massachusetts, its tougher gun laws will protect me.

Will they? Mental illness and uncontrolled anger can send someone off the rails anywhere and resort to a solution that calls for shooting the problem: You.

Do deaths in Florida really have nothing to do with you?

I went to high school in Pennsylvania, where the first day of hunting season could be an occasion to call off school. So many escaped education for a day to bear arms.

One of my brothers did, handling at different time a hunting rifle and hunter's bow.

I then lived in a state and culture that revered arms. I did not share that view.

Now we have evolved into a country where gun ownership has gone far afield of our Constitution's original reason for them -- for use by a militia. (Have you joined a militia lately? Annually, at the Patriots Day parade, we see dressed-up marchers reenacting militias -- from the birth of our nation.)

Calls to control this ever-spiraling deadly danger need to rise up from among us -- from our youth.

What say you?

John Donne, 17th-century poet

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend's were.
Each man's death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

Feb. 15 statement by Superintendent Bodie

Dear Arlington Parents/Guardians and Colleagues,

Once again, we are saddened and shocked by another tragic loss of life as a result of a school shooting. Our prayers and thoughts go out to the families, students, staff, and community affected by this tragedy.

A tragedy of this magnitude is troubling to both adults and children as we struggle to understand why events such as this occur and what we can do to prevent them from happening.

On the minds of many of members of our school community are questions about how the safety of our schools in Arlington and how can we best support our students as they learn more details about this tragedy.

The safety and well-being of our students is our first priority. We have in place emergency protocols and regular practice drills to respond quickly in the event of an emergency/ incident. Our plans have been developed in coordination with the local police, fire and emergency management departments and their extensive training and guidance has been at the forefront of our plans. As importantly, we focus on the emotional and mental well-being of our students with individual interventions as needed. We also focus as a district on having positive and welcoming school cultures.

How can parents and school staff help students feel safe in the wake of this tragedy? Suggestions from experts in the field include:

· Turn off or monitor the television. Endless news programs are likely to heighten anxiety, and young children cannot distinguish between images on television and their personal reality.

· Maintain a normal routine.

· Stick to facts. Answer questions factually. “Yes, we may go to war and our troops will do their jobs to protect us.” “Yes, there was a
very sad incident in Florida yesterday, but your teacher and principal are working very hard to keep you safe.”

· Remain calm and reassuring. Children take their cues from their parents, teachers and adults.

· Be optimistic.

· Be a good listener and observer. Pay attention to changes in behavior.

· Take care of yourself. You are better able to help your students if you are coping well.

Another resource for practical information to help support the emotional safety of children in relation to this recent news is from the American Psychological Association >>

Additional resources can be found on the district’s website >> 

While we only have one day before the February vacation, our counselors and social workers are available for any student who needs support. Please let your school principal or counselor know if you have specific concerns about your student. Over the break, parents can call Arlington Youth Counseling Center (AYCC: 781-316-3255) for counseling support.

In this world of uncertainty, we will continue our work together to ensure the safety and well-being of all of our students.

Feb. 16 statement by AHS Principal Matthew Janger

I have been traveling the last two days, but as I return to my computer I felt I should add to the helpful note from Dr. Bodie.

This year, the news has reported 8 school shootings, the most recent being the tragedy in Florida. Our hearts go out to the many victims of this tragedy.

While schools and our communities remain extremely safe places, this news is frightening and upsetting. We struggle to make sense of it and to know what to do. We have come together too often in recent years to mourn violence such as this. It has come from many causes and struck many communities.

With every tragedy, we are concerned for the welfare of our students who may be affected or upset. We are committed to making AHS a safe and supportive community for every student. For this reason, we have taken steps to improve our ability to recognize and respond to student stress and we have reviewed and trained to respond to a variety of safety situations.

Some things that we can do in the face of such news include:

Review safety plans. In school and in out of school it is important to know the safety plans and make sure they are up-to-date. We do this regularly at AHS and will be reviewing our planning again.

Support each other. If you have friends, colleagues, or classmates who seem sad, angry, or isolated, reach out to make sure they are alright. Let an adult know.

Take action. One of the best ways to avoid feeling scared or depressed is to take action to help others. We have a great deal of power to
make our communities safer and more inclusive by getting involved, organizing, and volunteering.

As always, we encourage students who are struggling, or who are aware of others struggling, to seek support. Students can reach out to Guidance, Deans, our School Social Workers, or our Nurses. In addition, if you feel that your student needs mental health resources, I have listed some useful contacts. Walk-in evaluation screening is available through Advocates in Waltham from 7:00 am-11:00 pm(781-893-2003). Counseling resources are also available 24 hours at the Massachusetts Suicide Prevention Hotline (800-273-TALK). You can also find additional resources at our guidance website. Globe,

Feb. 20: Trump urges ban on bum-stock-like arms

Feb. 19: After Parkland shooting, Trump takes a new look at background checks

This viewpoint was published Monday, Feb. 19, 2018, and updated March 3, to add AHS March 14 annoiucement.

In the photo, a mother comforts her daughter, a student at the Parkland, Fla., high school, in an/ AP photo by Gerald Herbert.

What do you think? Your comments are welcome. Post them, with your full name in the window at the bottom of this page. 

Alewife Brook sewage campaign: Dredgery, Globe not...


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