MTI Board of Directors Statement on Gun Violence and Safety // News // Uncategorized // May 26th, 2022

MTI Board of Directors Statement on Gun Violence and Safety

Our collective pain and grief is unyielding.

For over twenty years, since the Columbine Massacre in 1999, educators and students have had to make plans – plans about where to hide when a person with an AR-15 comes into your school with the sole intention of ending your life. Plans about how to best barricade a door with furniture or whether or not the windows in your classroom can be opened for escape. Plans about the best way to use your body as a shield to buy your students some time before the shooter turns on them. Plans on how to help children process a drill that causes as much trauma as the scenario they’re drilling for. 

But we have yet to hear about leaders’ plans to introduce new legislation that would ban assault rifles, increase scrutiny on the buyer and seller of any gun, or support the enforcement of laws already on the books. Instead, victims of gun violence (and the families they leave behind) are given flaccid “thoughts and prayers” from politicians whose pockets are lined with the money of lobbyists and special interest groups more interested in increasing profits than human lives. This is one of the reasons why America is the only country in the industrialized world with more guns than citizens. It is also why this is not going to be simply another call for gun control legislation. That ship has sailed. The fact that our students, educators, and local community called for this over four years ago en masse and our federal and state lawmakers have done nothing to protect us is proof that we cannot solely rely on the 99 legislators in Wisconsin or the 535 congresspeople in Washington. They have answered our cries and demands with purchased silence. 

It is not a stretch to say gun violence is a national cancer. This is not new rhetoric. The American Medication Association deemed gun violence a “public health crisis” six years ago. And while legislation and enforcement might be a way of removing the tumor, we have to collectively undergo treatment through reckoning with the role violence and guns play in our history, our collective culture, and what we pass on to the next generations. We cannot ignore that while Madison has not experienced a tragedy like Uvalde or Newtown yet, we have experienced people bringing guns to our schools – many times out of a feeling of not feeling safe either at school or in our community. While leaders may try to explain them away as “isolated incidents” out of fear of negative press, we need to examine and confront the realities that led to such actions. Especially when it comes down to our students and staff not feeling safe in their own schools. We, as educators and as a community, have to step up and admit this painful truth. As we outlined in our statement on Anti-Racism in 2020, solutions to complex issues are not solved with one approach or action. We need our district leadership and our community to work together with us on multiple actions to address this illness.

This includes:

  • A public commitment for educators, students, and families to discuss gun violence in all spaces. More importantly, how it intersects with domestic violence (especially violence against people who identify as women), the different ways we consume violence in our media, our social media, our interpersonal relationships, and the various impacts and approaches it has in our respective cultures. This is not a conversation that can be legislated out of existence, nor should we acquiesce to outside forces who would advocate for this, such as WILL and other groups currently targeting our LGBTQIA+ students and staff and students and staff of color through misinformation campaigns and frivolous litigation. There is a sick dissonance in some leaders spreading the idea that in order to prevent mass gun violence at school, we must arm school staff. Because it usually comes from the same group who have been passing fascist legislation across the country forbidding educators to discuss anything that has to do with race, identity, or to use texts that discuss anything that don’t adhere to white supremacist, patriarchical viewpoints. Yet we are entrusted with guns around the same children we’ve been accused of indoctrinating and “grooming”? That is less a solution than a cop-out.
  • A transparent and public discussion around funding mental health supports and not on the backs of other workers’ jobs. It seems any discussion around hiring more mental health professionals turns into a zero-sum discussion around what to cut elsewhere. We need to affirm our commitment to more mental health services, like nurses, nursing assistants, psychologists, social workers, counselors, and behavior specialists at the building level instead of creating more administrative positions that don’t directly work with students.
  • Well-communicated and well-established pathways of intervention for victims and perpetrators of gun violence in our schools. While our current grief is for the 19 elementary students and the two educators of Uvalde, we need to remember that the perpetrator was also a student. As dedicated public educators, we do not turn any child away in our community. And in many cases regarding gun violence in our community, we are connected to the people on both ends of the gun. We have students who have been directly impacted by gun violence in their homes and neighborhoods. But we also have students who are making these impactful choices to use guns – and they deserve more non-judgemental support and services to help them understand why they might have thoughts or behaviors that would lead to violent outcomes. Everyone is a part of this community and it’s our moral obligation to bring everyone in and keep them connected.
  • A commitment to confronting violence in our community that occurs outside of school. We know that our children witness and experience this trauma, which leads to adverse outcomes when they come to their school building. We cannot expect any human (no matter their age) to focus on academic, community and career preparation when they are not feeling their basic need of safety is met. And that responsibility cannot and should not be placed on one particular entity, whether we are talking about the police, the healthcare system, the education system, families, and otherwise. We all have a responsibility to do better.

We are not starting from scratch. Many educators, students, and community activists have done and are currently doing the work to discuss and address gun-related violence. But as a school district and as a Union dedicated to social justice, we have to be as loud and intentional in giving this conversation space instead of addressing it only after the tragedy unfolds. While we wait for our government leaders to come to their senses, it’s up to us to come together in the best interests of the children we pledge to protect at all costs.