This Is What I Want To Say To My Students About Mass Shootings

by Lily Read
Originally Published: 
Hal Bergman Photography / Getty Images

A letter to my students:

Just days ago, you watched while children your age flee from their school, hands on heads, while some were able to send photos and videos of a scene in a classroom much like your own where they were locked down. You learned later that day that 17 people were killed. Killed in a school that isn’t so different from yours, in a place that you are supposed to be able to go and feel safe. And this isn’t the first time you have seen this.

That day after you came into my classroom, scared, asking me what I would do if we had a gunman in the building. You needed the reassurance that I had a plan, that I would keep you safe. In that moment, I told you I did — and I had, in fact, come up with a detailed plan how to get you out of the building to safety, aware that I might well need to shield you with my body. And I would, like so many other educators have, put my body between you and a bullet.

In the coming months, I know you will need assurance every time the fire alarm goes off now. I know that you will jump at loud sounds, and that if we have to have a lockdown drill, it might make you quake in anxiety that you may or may not tell me about.

I want you to know that this isn’t fair to you. You aren’t supposed to be scared when you are sitting in my classroom, you aren’t supposed to have to worry about being shot to death when the fire alarm goes off. You aren’t supposed to worry about whether or not you will go home to your parents alive. This isn’t supposed to be your reality. We have failed you, my students. We have failed to do what we — the adults — are supposed to do. We haven’t given you a safe education, we haven’t protected you and taken action despite watching your peers be gunned down in their schools time and time again.

We are failing you every single day that we do not take action and get guns away from those who have no business carrying them.

Over and and over, we are told by those who value guns over lives that “now is not the time” to talk about gun control. But you know and you talk about how there is a school shooting more than once a week in this nation right now — so if we can’t talk now, when? You ask me why no one is doing anything, and I try to explain it, but the truth is there is no rational explanation that I can give you why people care more about their “Constitutional Rights” than your life.

My students, that is what I know you hear. That is the message you tell me comes through when you hear these people running the country say “now is not the time”, and you wonder whether our school — you and your friends — might be the next bodies lying on the floor while they say that “now is not the time.”

Today you asked me how many kids will have to die before we finally wake up and do something. And I had no answer.

So here are my words to you: I promise that I will do everything in my power to keep you safe. When I see a bully, I will try and help them so that they don’t turn into something that causes pain to so many. I will listen when you tell me that you think someone is unsafe or hurt — and I will take action. I will reassure you over, and over — no matter how many times it takes — that I will take every action I can to protect you no matter what.

I love you, my students.

I wish I could tell you the latest body count would change things, that finally those bought by the gun companies would put your lives before their profits — but I cannot promise you this. I can only say that I love you, and that each and every one of you mean the world to me, and you deserve better.

We all deserve better.

-Ms. Read

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