Week 5 of the 40 Days of Action: Teachers and Guns

June 11, 2018

people with signs

We’re nearing the end of the school year and kids everywhere can’t wait for summer to start. But before they go racing off to camp or the pool or the nearest Scoop Shop, let’s just take a few moments to think about how important our schools really are.

Schools are where kids develop a lifelong love of learning, where they make great friends and learn from great teachers who inspire and encourage them to be the best people they can be. Schools are where kids feel accepted and safe.

Except when they’re not.

Inadequate funding has made it difficult for teachers and schools to do the things they are meant to do. And decades of gun violence have left many of our students wondering when, not if, tragedy will strike. Our teachers and our kids deserve better.

Schools Should Be Safe Places

Welcome to week 5 of the 40 Days of Action. The Poor People’s Campaign is taking a look at the idea that “Everybody’s Got a Right to Live” this week, which inspired us to consider school shootings—as in, every child has the right to not be shot. 

Sadly, in today’s America, this has become something of a controversial position. Which kind of makes us wonder if we’ve missed something about the Second Amendment—does it say anywhere that the right to own a gun trumps the right to not get shot by that gun?

Our kids are going to school afraid that they and their friends will be shot, and the response by the Trump Administration and its allies has been to propose increasing the number of guns in and near schools. That makes little sense to us. And it makes little sense to teachers

We support the student leaders who emerged after the awful Parkland, Florida, massacre. We support the young people in the Movement for Black Lives who have been working hard (without receiving nearly the same level of national media attention) to end gun violence in communities of color. We support everyone who has marched, protested, and pleaded for an end to these senseless shootings. We support life-saving, common-sense gun-safety legislation.

Honoring the Work Our Teachers Do

What we don’t support is arming teachers. It’s absurd to expect a teacher to pivot from leading a social studies lesson to engaging an armed intruder in a gun battle inside the classroom. We want our teachers to be teachers, not security guards.

We already expect so much from our teachers. We want them to mold our children’s minds and prepare them to succeed in the classroom and in life. Isn’t that enough?

Interestingly, it’s predominantly Southern states—where average teacher salaries are the lowest—that have introduced bills to arm teachers. Legislators in Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Maryland, Michigan, and Kansas all proposed bills in their current or most recent legislative sessions to put guns in schools. So now underpaid teachers in underfunded schools are expected to add “armed guard” to their long list of job responsibilities? And school districts that can’t afford school supplies and new textbooks are somehow going to rewrite their budgets to include a line-item for firearms?

Maybe all this is why teachers have started saying enough is enough. Since the beginning of 2018, teachers in Arizona, Colorado, West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Kentucky have walked out, protesting low salaries and school budget cuts. And that brings us back to this week’s theme. “Everybody’s Got a Right to Live” is about more than guns and violence: It’s about making sure that every one of us has the opportunity to live our best life, to do well, to be well. Teachers want to be able to do their jobs. They want to be able support their own families. They want to teach and inspire kids and create an environment at school where every student feels safe and ready to learn. And we support them.

What You Can Do

The more of us who talk about this, who educate each other, who pressure our politicians and take to the streets, the sooner change will come. Join the Poor People’s campaign and you’ll receive updates about what’s going on all over the country during their 40 Days of Action campaign, happening now through June 21st.

Join The Movement!

Find an Event Near You

But even if you’re not able to get to any of the marches, protests, teaching sessions, or events, you can still get involved. Each week, these recurring events will be live streamed from Washington, DC via the Poor People’s Campaign Facebook page:

  • Sundays: Mass Meeting, 6:00 pm to 7:30 pm EST
  • Tuesdays: Truthful Tuesday Teach-Ins, 7:30 pm to 9:00 pm EST
  • Thursdays: Thursday Justice Jam Nights, 7:30 pm to 8:30 pm EST

Why not invite some people over and watch it together? Start a conversation. Get to know each other. Share some food and share some ideas. The connections we make matter. We need each other. We’re all in this together, and we’re building a movement meant to last.

Coming Up

We’ll see you again next week, June 17-22, the very last week of the 40 Days of Action, where we look at poverty, the widening wealth gap, and where we go from here.​