I am ceding my space this week to Jennifer McGee, 2017 Principal of the Year from the Atwood Primary School in Oakland. Below is the speech she wrote for the student walkout at her school last week.

Her sentiments echo common sense and are a call for protection, not by arming teachers (two separate incidents were reported last week where guns were accidently fired by teachers in schools), but by disarming the perpetrators with commonsense gun legislation and an investment in our schools by providing them with better guidance counseling and teachers trained to stop bullying, while encouraging a tribe mentality for all students, remembering that those who might deserve it the least, might need it the most.

Meeting students where they are is a first step in creating more heart in our schools. Keeping assault weapons off the streets is another. Having teachers and administrators who care and will mentor our children is essential to moving this issue forward and preventing more gun violence in our schools.

We need more educators like Jennifer McGee speaking out and demanding more, while at the same time saying Enough.

***

by Jennifer McGee

This is a conversation I had with one of my kindergarten teachers last week. She was trying to figure out if she could fit all of her 17 kindergartners into her tiny classroom bathroom. She wondered if she could make a math game out of it, so she would not frighten the children … but she had been lying awake at night, wondering, can I keep my students safe if the unimaginable happens in our little school?

And here’s the thing. This is the conversation that is taking place in every single classroom in the United States. Every one of our amazing teachers recognizes the fact that no school, no district, no state is exempt from the possibility of a school shooting … and this is unacceptable.

As a school principal, we conduct lockdowns. Drills in which children and teachers crouch in their darkened classrooms, against a windowless wall, not making a peep. Teachers try to make this “not scary” by giving the children lollipops or smiling bravely at them and whispering “we are safe” while they await the “all clear” signal. Imagine being a child, experiencing this. Children have no sense of geography. When they hear of a school shooting, no matter how far away … they believe it is right around the corner.

Our mental health supports in this country are often not accessible nor affordable nor available. Weapons of war in this country are readily affordable, accessible and available. This has, not surprisingly, met with catastrophic and unforgivable results.

I am speaking out because my fallen sister of the profession, the principal of Sandy Hook Elementary School, Dawn Hochsprung, was murdered attempting to protect her schoolchildren and teachers from a weapon of war spraying bullets … so today I am her voice.

Our fearless youth have said “Enough”. They are begging those who govern this country to keep them safe. Barack Obama tweeted to them: "We have been waiting for you."

I echo that very sentiment to the politicians of this great nation. We have been waiting for you.

In 2018, the requested budget for military spending is over 600 billion dollars. A large percentage of that money is discretionary. Protect our schoolchildren. Insist upon this being a national priority. Is there a greater priority? Do not talk to me about giving our teachers guns. The job of protecting our schoolchildren, the children we, as a nation, require be in our schoolhouses, is yours. We have been waiting for you.

A little boy sidled up to his teacher last week as she was out on recess duty. “Mrs. Moody,” he said, “Did you know students are shooting other students in their schools?” As she began to soothe him with her answer, he quickly looked at her and seriously asked, “Do you have your cellphone with you?” It’s on their minds. He was asking, can you keep me safe?

Responsible gun reform.

Increased support for those with mental illness.

Protection for our schools.

Enough. Elected officials: We have been waiting for you.

***

“Teach them better, if you can. If not, remember that kindness, grace, and goodwill are given for moments such as these.”

— Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor –  last of the so-called “Five Good Emperors” (121-180)