Tuesday, December 18, 2012
The shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School have devastated Connecticut families and communities, and shocked us and people across the country and around the world. Recent history suggests that we will continue to experience such tragedies unless our country addresses the two central issues of access to mental health services and easy access to assault weapons.
As the burials take place this week of the twenty children, six educators, the young man who pulled the trigger, and his mother, we must consider how our professional lives and aspirations are connected to these complex issues. This academic community through the years has trained tens of thousands of teachers, administrators, and counselors who work in schools just like Sandy Hook. Among our faculty and administration, many of us have spent part of our careers teaching in various early childhood settings, elementary schools, middle schools or high schools. Many of our students are preparing to fulfill the same roles held by those who were killed last week. We personally may not know any of the students or educators who were killed on Friday, but we do know them. As I saw their photos on television over the weekend, I was reminded of the many students and teachers with whom I’ve worked over these past thirty-five years. It could have been any of them on the screen.
We should not accept as normal that we must lock school doors out of fear of a gunman, train teachers about lockdown procedures, or show teachers how to hide children in closets, barricade classroom doors and tape paper on the windows. School and community environments matter to us, a lot, and the current “normal” is not a sign of healthy communities.
Right now we have mental health services that aren’t available to some of our most needy, and assault weapons that are all too readily available. This is literally a deadly combination, and this must change. Only a second-term president can lead the country in this direction, and President Obama and other bi-partisan government leaders will need our public and persistent support. Such support will be a test of our ethical and political commitment, but it is consistent with the values in our work and Lesley’s mission.
We will be inviting a number of speakers in the upcoming spring semester to discuss these topics with the university community. I hope you will consider joining us, participating in these discussions and contributing your thoughts about how we can help create safer communities and schools. It is time for leaders and citizens from all walks of life to join together and help this country change its priorities.
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