A Back-to-School Reminder to Trust Our Students

Students returned to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, on August 15th, six months after a deadly mass shooting on campus.

Another. Mass. Shooting. Two dead. Nine injured. Florida.

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy De Vos advocated using federal money to buy guns for teachers.

All this weekend while I was running around trying to get my kids ready for tomorrow’s first day of school.

Jesus take the wheel.

Last Valentine’s Day, 17 people were killed in the devastating mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Since then, we’ve seen more action and more intelligent discourse coming from the young survivors than we seem able to expect from adult leaders. The Parkland students have Marched for Their Lives, spoken out about gun control legislation, written books and op-eds, and engaged young people nationwide to increase voter registration.

These kids are impressive. And they’ve given me renewed hope.

After being thrust into the spotlight before they even had a chance to process their trauma, a coalition of MSD students decided to step up and advocate for reasonable gun control.

Students like Emma Gonzalez, David Hogg and Cameron Kasky are now household names, representing the Gen Z movement for safe, common sense gun laws. Despite being mocked and challenged by select media members and public figures — and of course the NRA — these young people persisted. They’ve remained laser-focused on figuring out how to create a more peaceful, safe country for our students. Instead of summer camps or part-time jobs, they took their leadership roles to the next level in recent months.

So during this back-to-school season, I urge us all to take a seat in their classroom and reflect on what these young survivors have accomplished in just six months:

Just a few days ago, 18-year-old survivor David Hogg led the “50 Miles More” march to the Smith & Wesson headquarters in Massachusetts, with the goals of getting the gun manufacturer to stop producing military-style weapons like those used in recent mass shootings, and to donate $5M to study crimes involving the company’s firearms. Hogg told a crowd at the 50 Miles More rally: “we are here not to take anybody’s rights away. We’re here to respect and understand the fact that in the same way that we as Americans have the right to bear arms, we as children have the right to live.”

David and his former classmate Emma Gonzalez joined other survivors to launch the March for Our Lives: Road to Change bus tour, stopping in 20 states to engage in civil conversations with gun enthusiasts to create common sense regulations to prevent gun violence, and to rally young people to register and vote.

Sophomore Lauren Hogg joined the bus tour and told NPR: “This whole summer I’ve been joking with my friends while we’re on the bus — there’s three years until I can take a government class, but I’m lobbying in D.C.”

Fellow March for Our Lives / Never Again MSD leader Cameron Kasky and his younger brother also returned to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High for the 2018–2019 school year. Now with 419K Twitter followers and a roster of celebrity supporters, Kasky returns to school as a bona fide influencer. He recently told People: “Youth involvement in politics is incredibly important because we’re walking into the future, we’re inheriting the world. All we want is it to be a better place.”

We need to listen to the Parkland activists. They’re the ones who lived this nightmare. They’re the ones whose friends were murdered in their high school’s halls. Our roles have shifted and it’s time for us to let the young people lead.

To learn more about March for Our Lives: Road to Change, visit https://marchforourlives.com/road-to-change/.