I want to show these people exactly what’s going on when these children are facing bullets flying through classrooms and students are dying trying to get an education. That’s not OK, and that’s not acceptable and we need to fix that. – David Hogg, Marjory Steadman Douglas High School Senior
On December 1, 1958, fire broke out at Our Lady of the Angels Catholic School in Chicago. It began in a paper-filled barrel at the bottom of a stairwell. Within minutes, the school was ablaze. With no fire alarms or escapes above the first floor, 1200 students and nuns were trapped. At the end, 92 students and three nuns perished.
Government leaders and officials nationwide took immediate steps to protect schoolchildren, including installing fire alarms in schools and linking them to cities’ fire department. Fire drills, supervised by the fire department, became standard practice.
On April 20, 1999, two students launched a shooting rampage at Columbine High School killing 12 students and one teacher and wounding 24 others before committing suicide. On December 14, 2012, another 20 children and six staff were massacred at Sandy Hook Elementary. In Colorado, count one murdered student at Platte River and another at Arapahoe high schools. Now, add 14 more students and three staff to the grisly count. Apply your first-grade math skills: 12 + 20 + 2 + 14 = 48 students and 10 teachers and staff, not including others nationwide, slain in the name of?
In the aftermath of those massacres, no effective proactive measures have been implemented to protect American schoolchildren. Only defensive measures, such as lock-downs during which students huddle silently in darkened rooms, have. And, as witnessed at MSDHS, even armed resource officers might be pointless. The primary culprit—military-grade weapons of mass murder—remain readily available thanks to the NRA and its spineless political toadies.
Moral outrage. What provokes it in a person? Are some beyond it? Is there a turning point when one says, “Enough!” and moves to action?
On February 24, 1969, the Supreme Court ruled in Tinker v. Des Moines students do not “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.”
It’s been nearly a half century since the Tinker ruling. Since then, student activism is a mixed-bag. Peer pressure is a powerful controller among young people. Few teens are willing to act alone, to risk standing up and out. But when they do, they rock.
After the latest massacre, Hogg and fellow MSDHS student Emma Gonzalez are acting, serving as models for their peers by standing up and out and letting their voices be their weapons by calling down those who perpetuate the killing machine by their lack of moral courage. They’ve created the Badge of Shame for weak-kneed, amoral politicos who sell their souls Faustian-like for NRA campaign blood money.
Three broad-scale opportunities for students to call attention to the bastardization of the Second Amendment by exercising their First Amendment rights have been created:
- March 14: The Women’s March’s Youth EMPOWER group is encouraging “students, teachers, school administrators, parents and allies” to walk out “for 17 minutes at 10am across every time zone to protest Congress’ inaction to do more than tweet thoughts and prayers in response to the gun violence plaguing our schools and neighborhoods.”
- March 24: March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C. Student organizers will call for effective school safety and gun control action.
- April 20: National High School Walkout, the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre. No need to explain.
In future columns, I’ll address related topics:
- fatalism that has overtaken many seeking common-sense gun measures
- red herrings set forth by the NRA, its allies, and its politico toadies
- deadly absurdity of armed teachers
- “Coming of Age in the Age of Terror.”
The massacre at Marjory Steadman Douglas High School can be the bridge too far. Such massacres need not be the “new normal.” It will take, though, purpose and unrelenting determination to make it “abnormal.”
The Columbine Generation has come of age. They don’t know life devoid of them potentially being future carnage. They must lead by exercising their First Amendment rights by making their voices heard and acting as if their lives depend upon it. Because they do.