A group of 20 or so mothers met informally last Sunday in Coronado to begin what they are calling “a dialogue on making our schools safer.” This meeting came on the heels of the February 14 murder of 17 individuals (students and a teacher) at a Parkland, Florida high school.
Such a meeting has become commonplace in the United States following mass murders at schools since the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado. The pattern is often the same – calls for “thoughts and prayers,” discussion in both Congress and the media about legislating restrictions on access to guns or restrictions on certain types of weapons or about whether it is too soon to talk about how to solve the problem of gun violence. Generally, the outcome has been the same in these cases – little follow through from the point of view of legislation.
Coronado has followed a similar pattern over the last week with discussions, emails from the Coronado Unified School District, lockdown drills, and calls for action. But, one of the Coronado organizers, Colleen, said, “Something is different this time … I think it’s the kids.” She was referring to the survivors of Parkland who have mobilized, tweeted, staged protests and are organizing for further change.
Another thing is different since Columbine. While Congress failed to enact any significant changes in gun safety after the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre in which 20 little children (six- and seven-year olds) along with six adult staff members were murdered at their elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, a stay-at-home mom, Shannon Watts, decided she had to do something herself. The organization that ultimately grew out of her Facebook page, Moms Demand Action (for gun sense in America), has grown into a formidable force for gun violence prevention, demanding that legislators, companies and educational institutions “establish common-sense gun reforms.”
I spoke with several of the women who organized the meeting in Coronado on Sunday. While all agreed that many of their goals fall in line with those of Moms Demand Action, they are not formally affiliated with it. Like Moms Demand Action, they are a non-partisan group of moms. Colleen said, “We can’t be a place where people bash Republicans or where they bash Democrats.” Both she and Amy agreed that the group is non-partisan because they believe their goal to be non-partisan: “our ultimate selfish goal is that the students and teachers feel [and are] safe.”
One action that Moms Demand Action is calling for, and which the Coronado women support, is for school boards to draft resolutions demanding gun control from legislators and requiring parents to sign forms committing to keeping any guns at home safely unloaded and locked up safely and separately from ammunition.
What they are not interested in talking about is abolishing the second amendment. None of them suggested this and it distracts from the real problem. They are interested, instead, in what they call “sensible gun legislation that includes banning assault weapons, [and] limiting the size and number of magazines one can own …” In short, the sorts of changes that will perhaps not prevent a school shooting, but could certainly limit the lethality of any such event.
They are also interested in learning much more about what the current security plans, protocols and processes are in Coronado and helping to provide for whatever needs are unmet. And, they are looking for “greater transparency around the security measures that are currently in place.” On this issue, there is good news. Following a meeting between city officials and the school board yesterday, Mayor Bailey said, “The school district and city are putting together a joint community forum to discuss school safety on March 5 at the high school.”
This forum will likely be well attended. The women told me that following their informal meeting, one of the organizers opened a Facebook page called “Coronado Ladies for Change.” Within about 24 hours, over 100 individuals had joined it. By March 5, that number could swell even more.
In the meanwhile, Coronado Ladies for Change has requested separate meetings with both Superintendent Mueller and Mayor Bailey to discuss these issues. They also intend to attend the upcoming CUSD Board Meeting (to take place on March 1, at 4 pm) to make their interests known.
And, if the major difference in the momentum for gun control nationally is now the students, what are students in Coronado doing? There has been a lot of talk, and students at the high school have been discussing the possibility of joining the national walk-out on March 14 at 10 am. Some fear getting in trouble. One freshman, in response to the news that a Texas school district has threatened students who join the walk-out with expulsion, said, “If it’s something I can do to make a difference, and it’s all I can do, then shouldn’t I do it?” The question was rhetorical.
Most parents I’ve spoken to agree that they would support their students in the walk-out. Superintendent Mueller, when queried as to whether CUSD would expel students who walked out said, “We are interested in working in partnership with our student body, staff, and community to support experiences that are safe and aligned with the passions and interests of our shareholders.” The answer did not sound like a “yes.”