Students’ Right to Learn without Fear
February 20, 2018
I hope that you enjoyed a peaceful long weekend. On the school front, our outstanding faculty spent Friday morning engaging as students in one another’s classrooms during our second annual “Teach-In” and then participated in cross-divisional Critical Friends Groups by closely examining student and teacher work in the afternoon. The day was chock-full of learning, laughter, and collaboration, as we appreciated the time to reflect together as adults apart from the typical hustle and bustle of school. These days provide essential nourishment and rejuvenation for us all.
Needless to say, the joie-de-vivre that consumed us on Friday was a welcome distraction from Wednesday’s tragic massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Once again, we are left wondering—as citizens, parents, and educators—how the mass murder of innocent children, in a house sacred for learning, could have been avoided. The facts are harrowing. The United States is home to 4.4 percent of the world’s population and nearly half of the world’s guns. Access to military-style assault weapons is virtually unrestricted, and these weapons have been used time and time again to take the lives of innocent people.
As educators, we believe that every child has the right to learn in an environment free from fear and the threat of violence. In the days ahead, I am joining with other New York State Association of Independent Schools (NYSAIS) heads to express our outrage and apply pressure on our elected officials to pass meaningful gun control legislation. Since Wednesday’s senseless attacks, we have also seen inspiring examples of youth in Florida leading a growing chorus of voices demanding action. “Enough is enough,” they say, and they are right.
As you may have heard, actions are forming quickly. The Women’s March Youth Empower division is planning a national 17-minute walkout on March 14 “to demand Congress pass legislation to keep us safe from gun violence at our schools, on our streets, and in our homes and places of worship.” Educators are also organizing, via Change.org, for a national march and a day of action against gun violence on April 20, encouraging high school students to march to legislators’ and NRA offices.
As a faculty at Bank Street, we will spend time over the next week discussing these opportunities and applying our deep knowledge of child development to determine how, as a community, we may want to participate. I promise to keep you abreast of our plans and welcome any thoughts you might have.
With tremendous gratitude for the community we are—