Parents across the country are being urged to let their children participate in the National School Walkout on March 14. Yet, few parents (and kids!) understand the walkout’s true mission. At my children’s elementary school in Northern Virginia, school officials are telling parents the walkout is meant to memorialize the 17 victims of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida.
Yet, according to the National School Walkout website, the real mission of the walkout is to demand Congress pass more restrictive gun laws. The website specifically states: “Students and allies are organizing the national school walkout to demand Congress pass legislation … Congress must take meaningful action … and pass federal gun reform legislation.”
So, the children walking out of the classroom on March 14th won’t be spending the time in quiet prayer or reflection. Instead, school kids (even those in elementary school) are going to be used as props by professional anti-gun activists to push for specific legislation.
Some schools are even aiding in the effort by coordinating with the walkout organizers, providing “safe spaces” for kids who participate in the walkout, promoting the event on school Facebook and Twitter accounts, and allowing school buses to transport kids to and from gun control rallies.
Considering that many public schools are helping to rally more kids to the cause and are even supplying school resources and personnel time to the effort, tax payers should ask: Is this an acceptable use of school funds? More importantly, why is a publicly funded school supporting one side of a very contentious and complex constitutional matter?
Some might even wonder: What other political causes can I expect my public school to promote? Should conservatives in politically red areas of the country expect schools to help transport kids to next year’s March for Life? Or how about for the inauguration on the Mall when Trump is reelected in 2020?
Educators should also be concerned that the politicization of this issue avoids the nuance of what went wrong in Parkland that allowed the terrible shooting to occur, and what policies might actually help prevent the next one.
For instance, we now know that between 2008 and 2017, the Broward County sheriff’s office received 45 calls from concerned citizens related to the Parkland shooter and his brother. Social workers visited the his house multiple times. Yet, none of these reports (which included threats of violence and warnings that these troubled boys had access to weapons) were entered into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). If these many incidents had been logged into NICS, the shooter wouldn’t have passed a background check, and he wouldn’t have been able to purchase a firearm.
This isn’t just a problem in Broward County. According to a 2016 audit by the Justice Department, all 50 states are guilty of not properly submitting records to the database. Even mental health information largely goes unreported. Considering this, parents might want to ask if their own police departments and social service networks are consistently reporting incidents to the NICS.
They also might want to consider that at Parkland, three Broward County Sherriff’s deputies stood down outside the school, which allowed Cruz to continue his killing spree. Pushing for better police training and more effective communication with local schools is another area where parents should focus.
And there are more important areas to explore, such as the actions of the armed school resource officer employed by Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Instead of trying to keep students safe (as he was trained to do), he huddled in a stairwell with his gun holstered. In light of this, parents might want to ask questions about the level of training their school’s resource officers are receiving.
Americans ought to vigorously debate these issues, but we should also recognize that new laws won’t make a difference if they go unenforced. Moreover, there are already 300-plus million guns in the United States. That means regardless of how we restrict gun ownership, we need to be prepared to respond to acts of violence in the future.
Sadly, many parents have decided to pass on these hard questions and instead join a movement that is using children as props in a complex policy issue. We can all agree that children deserve safety and security at school. There are ways to help move toward that goal, but taking advantage of our kids for political ends isn’t one of them.
Julie Gunlock is a senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum and directs the organization’s Culture of Alarmism Project. She is the author of "From Cupcakes to Chemicals: How the Culture of Alarmism Makes Us Afraid of Everything and How to Fight Back."