On a social media forum, a Westerly School Committee member recently chastised our children for their fears and concerns about school safety in the aftermath of the Parkland tragedy, writing, “What I want to know is exactly what shall we do to keep the snowflakes safe that we don’t already do?” Because she was speaking as a School Committee member on a public group, the post (later edited to remove the word “snowflakes”) was utterly irresponsible; however, I hope she learns a powerful lesson about the potential of this next generation. Students are no longer encouraged to just recall information. They are taught to analyze information from reliable and credible sources, draw conclusions, and take informed action. Students are given a skill set to navigate the digital world arguably better than many adults, as evidenced by this elected official’s post.
The Parkland student leaders understand the complexity surrounding gun violence and school shootings in this country. They recognize that comprehensive reforms are necessary to ensure safer schools throughout our nation and have called upon students around the nation to unite in their efforts. They are fighting for increased funding, support, and accountability for policies relating to mental health, sensible and comprehensive gun control and school programs that better meet the needs of at-risk students.
These students have done their homework and are using 21st-century tools to solve 21st-century problems; it is the only world they know. These students are trying to debate the issue in a mature and rational manner, but when they are ignored by legislators and mocked by School Committee members, other actions are necessary to raise awareness and to energize bystanders to engage in the process to ensure a safer society for all Americans, but especially America’s children, turning a tragic event into a movement.
Similar to student movements of the past, the walkouts and marches planned are not isolated forms of civil disobedience and protest; these walk-outs are part of a nationwide youth solidarity movement which has grown out of frustration over the sheer apathy and unwillingness of adults to solve these problems. The students exhibit civic virtue and their idealism is a catalyst for honest conversations. We need to listen to these students; their voices matter. We need to better protect these students, our country’s children, not belittle them by calling them “snowflakes."
To the students in Parkland, Westerly, and across this nation, adults are listening and ready to join the movement calling for change. Your efforts are inspirational and courageous. I empathize with your fears and anxieties, and I hope our elected leaders have the courage to fight special interests and bring people together to protect you. Perhaps our School Committee member will see that you are not snowflakes; you are the storm that is needed to wake this country up. #ENOUGH