Dear America: Kids doing active-shooter drills is not normal.

Image by Tatiana Cardenas/Upworthy.

As thousands across the nation prepare to take to the streets on March 24, 2018, for The March for Our Lives, we’re taking a look at some of the root causes, long-lasting effects, and approaches to solving the gun violence epidemic in America. We’ll have a new installment every day this week.

I was teaching in a high school classroom when the Columbine shooting happened.

In between periods, a student rushed into my room and turned on the television. As other students shuffled in, they caught the scene on TV and stopped in their tracks.

Together we gaped silently at aerial footage of teens pouring out of their school, covered in their classmates’ blood. News reporters struggled to offer details about the shooter or shooters, still unclear if the carnage had ended. Still unsure of the body count.

I looked around at my 15- and 16-year-old students, their eyes wide with a mix of shock and fear. Even the goofy class clown stared somberly at the screen. I considered whether it was prudent to let them see all of this, but the only difference between that high school and ours was geography. Those bloodied students could have been my students. They knew it, and I knew it.

It seems commonplace now, but that was a feeling I’d never felt as a teacher before. And I’d only felt something similar once as a kid.

Tom Mauser walks along a wall at the Columbine High School Memorial; his son Daniel was one of students killed in the Columbine shooting. Photo by Don Emmert/Getty Images.

I remember when I was little, sitting huddled in a ball under my desk, imagining the classroom around me exploding.

It was the early 1980s. I must have been 6 or 7. My class was doing a nuclear-blast preparation drill, a hallmark of the Cold War era in which I was born. I remember staring at the thin metal legs of my desk, wondering how they were supposed to protect me from a bomb going off.

Nuclear annihilation — not being gunned down in school — was the big concern of my childhood. Such duck-and-cover drills disappeared by my middle elementary years, so the threat felt short-lived. Of course, a nuclear blast is always a terrifying thought, but somehow, I just knew it wasn’t likely to happen.

I imagined it, though. And the imagining alone shook me as a young child. Sometimes I look back and wonder how Americans lived like that for so long.

A kindergartener in Hawaii hides under a desk during a lockdown drill. Photo via Phil Mislinski/Getty Images.

Kids in high school now have been doing active-shooter lockdown drills their entire childhoods.

The year after Columbine, my husband and I started our family, and I left teaching. I chose to homeschool my kids, and though lockdowns weren’t part of that decision, the lack of active-shooter drills has been a significant perk of homeschooling.

Unlike nuclear preparation drills, active-shooter drills are meant to prepare kids for something they know has happened multiple times. They’ve heard the news stories. Some kids have been through the real thing themselves.

I try to imagine it — my sweet 9-year-old boy huddled in a closet with 20 of his classmates, forced into unnatural silence as they wait for the sound of a would-be shooter trying to enter their locked classroom. I can see his face, the very real fear in his eyes. I can honestly feel his racing heartbeat.

It guts me just to think about it.

An elementary school teacher (who requested anonymity because the internet is ridiculous and she’s received death threats) posted a description of a recent active-shooter drill in her classroom. The post has been shared close to 200,000 times and for good reason. It’s a simple description of an unfathomable reality.

“Today in school we practiced our active shooter lockdown. One of my first graders was scared and I had to hold him. Today is his birthday. He kept whispering ‘When will it be over?’ into my ear. I kept responding ‘Soon’ as I rocked him and tried to keep his birthday crown from stabbing me.

I had a mix of 1-5 graders in my classroom because we have a million tests that need to be taken. My fifth grader patted the back of the 2nd grader huddled next to him under a table. A 3rd grade girl cried silently and clutched the hand of her friend. The rest of the kids sat quietly (casket quiet) and stared aimlessly in the dark.

As the ‘intruder’ tried to break into our room twice, several of them jumped, but remained silently. The 1st grader in my lap began to pant and his heart was beating out of his chest, but he didn’t make a peep.”

Image via Facebook, used with permission.

Seriously. These are babies we are putting through this. (Well, not literal babies, but still.)

And these drills can be even more terrifying than you might imagine.

At a high school in Anchorage, Alaska, an officer used the sound of real gunfire — blanks shot from a real gun — during active-shooter drills. The idea was that kids would learn what actual gunfire sounds like so they can act quickly when they hear it.

“We don’t want to scare them,” the principal, Sam Spinella, told CNN affiliate KTVA. “We want this to become as close to reality as possible.”

I am dumbfounded. Those two sentences make zero sense together. We’re not talking about a police training academy here — we’re talking about an average day in high school. The reality they are trying to prepare them for is scary — how could a preparation “as close to reality as possible” not be?

A recent article in The Atlantic examined the psychological effects of active-shooter drills on kids. Surprisingly, not a lot of research has been done on the subject. All we really have are reports of young adults who grew up with them.

One interviewee described a memory of his classmate coughing during a lockdown drill when he was 12. Their teacher reacted by telling the class that in a real shooter situation, they’d all be dead now.

Yeah, probably not the best way to handle that.

But what is the best way to prepare children for the possibility of a gunman trying to kill their classmates, their favorite teacher, their best friend?

We want kids to feel safe and secure. We don’t want to scare kids as we prepare them for something that is undeniably scary. But is it smart to scare them a little bit in order for them to understand the seriousness of the drill? And if kids aren’t scared at all — if they are totally unfazed by active-shooter drills — how can we justify them being so desensitized?

Ugh. This is not normal. This should never feel normal.

And yet, this is normal. In fact, some people tell me they feel comforted by the preparation.

I talked to a handful of teens and young adults who grew up with lockdown drills. One described a series of bomb threats at her high school, which she said were scary at first, but eventually became a “boy who cried wolf” situation. Another described intruder drills as simply preparing for the unexpected, not much different than an earthquake or tornado drill.

One high schooler, Joe Burke of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, told me about the first lockdown drill he remembers in the fifth grade. He and his classmates huddled under computer desks along the wall, knees hugged to their chests, with the lights off and door locked:

“When we were sitting under the desks, I had a slight bit of doubt in the idea. To my fifth-grade self, it didn’t seem like the best idea to just be hiding if someone were to come in and try and hurt us. It would only take a few seconds of searching to find 25-plus kids and a teacher all cramped under those tables. … At the time, I automatically assumed that the adults knew more than we did. I figured that we were much safer than I realize we actually were, in retrospect.”

Burke said the new ALICE training his high school has implemented has made him feel better prepared and is “a massive step in the right direction.” (ALICE is a for-profit training program that has been implemented in schools across the country. Here’s an interesting analysis of the praise and criticism of it.)

Joe Burke spoke at his high school’s walkout on March 14, 2018. Photo via Christine Burke, used with permission.

Joe’s mother, Christine Burke, said that she has made it a point to talk to her kids about active shooter situations in detail:

“After Parkland, I sat with my 15-year-old son and showed him the footage of the shooting inside the building. We talked about how the smoke from an AR-15 would disorient his way out, that the gun would be loud, that screaming classmates would make it hard to hear instructions. We talked about how his phone need not be a priority (no filming the scene, no taking pictures) but that he should use it as a means of communication only if he could. And we talked about how the ALICE training would feel in a real situation. That conversation with my son chilled me to my bones because I realized that this is the world we live in now. I have to talk to my son about his algebra grade and about how loud an AR-15 sounds when fired in a classroom.”

Christine, like many parents, finds herself navigating surreal waters. We have accepted the inevitability of school shootings to the point where we actively prepare our kids for them.

Generally speaking, preparedness is good. Preparedness is smart.

And yet, how can we accept that this is the reality for children in America? Parents across the country constantly say to themselves, “We shouldn’t have to do this. Our kids shouldn’t have to do this.” And yet, they do.

Christine Burke (left) and her friend Jen were the only two parents who joined her son’s school walkout for National School Walkout on March 14, 2018. Photo via Christine Burke, used with permission.

Is this really the price we have to pay for freedom?

We’re supposed to be a fantastic, developed country, aren’t we? We pride ourselves on being a “shining city on a hill” a leader among nations, a beacon of freedom to all people.

There is no official war happening on American soil. We are not a country experiencing armed conflict or revolution or insurrection. And yet we live as if we are.

People in other countries look at our mass shootings and what we’ve attempted to do about them and think we are out of our ever-loving minds. I’m right there with them. As a former teacher and current homeschool parent, I feel like I’m peering in from the outside with my jaw to the floor at what we’ve accepted as normal for our children.

I’m a fan of the U.S. Constitution and don’t take changes to it lightly, but maybe it’s time to accept that the Second Amendment has not actually protected our freedoms the way it was designed to. We are not a free people when our children have to hide in closets and listen for gunfire as they imagine themselves the next victims of a mass-murdering gunman during math class.

This is not normal. This should never feel normal.

Kids who have repeatedly and systematically prepared for carnage in their classrooms are taking to the streets, to the podium, to the media — and soon to the polls — in a way we haven’t seen in decades.

It’s easy to see why. These teens have spent their childhoods watching the adults in charge respond to the mass murder of children by simply preparing for more of it. And they’re done.

I’m unbelievably proud of the way these young people are organizing, saying #NeverAgain and pushing for effective gun legislation. Their efforts have convinced the governor of Florida to break with the National Rifle Association and sign a sweeping gun control bill. (Though not perfect, it’s a big step for the “Gunshine State.”) Companies feeling the pressure and momentum have broken ties with the NRA as well.

I can’t help but note how these kids’ successes highlight previous generations’ failure on this issue. The time for taking real action was long before Parkland, Sandy Hook, or even Columbine. But I feel the sea change coming.

These young activists give me hope that maybe future generations will look back in wonder at how we lived like this for so long.


For more of our look at America’s gun violence epidemic, check out other stories in this series:

And see our coverage of to-the-heart speeches and outstanding protest signs from the March for Our Lives on March 24, 2018.

Read more: http://www.upworthy.com/dear-america-kids-doing-active-shooter-drills-is-not-normal

Parkland kids are changing America. Here are the black teens who helped pave their way.

Illustration by Tatiana Cardenas/Upworthy.

As thousands across the nation prepare to take to the streets on March 24, 2018, for The March for Our Lives, we’re taking a look at some of the root causes, long-lasting effects, and approaches to solving the gun violence epidemic in America. We’ll have a new installment every day this week.

America hasn’t been the same since Feb. 14, 2018.

That’s when a 19-year-old man shot and killed 17 students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and citizens around the country became rightfully outraged. 70% of Americans are fed up with excuses from the government and the National Rifle Association for not taking action about the circumstances that led to one of the deadliest high school shootings in modern American history.

Emma Gonzalez, David Hogg, and Cameron Kasky have been just a few of the numerous Parkland students leading what’s been called the #Enough or #NeverAgain movement for gun reform.

In the midst of unimaginable tragedy, these teens have been unapologetically outspoken about the collective American failure to implement safe, commonsense gun laws that a majority of Americans now believe in.

Photo by Rhona Wise/AFP/Getty Images.

Many have garnered a huge social media following, several have been interviewed by media such as “60 Minutes” and The New Yorker, and the young activists have made it clear they aren’t backing down until things change.

They’re already making a substantial impact on policy changes and the national conversation and understanding of gun violence. But it’s time to take a step back and remember they weren’t alone in bringing this issue to the forefront.

Some other really amazing teen activists have been fighting for gun reform for years.

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

Rather than getting handclap and raised fist emojis from thousands of Americans, black youth activists have often been demonized, labeled as “thugs,” and deemed trivial in the systematic gun reform conversation.

There are the friends of Hadiya Pendleton, a high school honor student who was killed at a park. In January 2013, they started a national Wear Orange movement to campaign against gun violence.

In September 2013, the Dream Defenders worked with NAACP leaders in an attempt to repeal the notorious Stand Your Ground law in Florida.

Black youth organized a massive march in New York City to protest gun violence and police brutality in December 2014. Tens of thousands of people attended the protest and marched for safety for all people.

In 2015, activist DeRay Mckesson helped launch Campaign Zero, an organization that proposes policy changes to curb gun and police violence.

And in July 2016, four teenage black girls organized a march and silent sit-in at Millennium Park to protest gun violence in Chicago communities.

These are just a few examples of thousands of active black teens working on gun reform over the years. Though many of these protests have been successful and meaningful, many have criticized the youth for their protest strategy.

It’s imperative that we not just recognize young black activists, but that we also appreciate their efforts being equally as important and invaluable as those of non-black kids.

The Parkland kids should be supported. They’ve done remarkable work that warrants the celebrity outreach they’ve received. And they’ve certainly gotten their share of criticism from the NRA and the internet.

But there are unequivocal double standards in the response to activism from young, non-black students compared with the activism of young black kids that are fighting for similar changes. In comparison, Parkland activists were quickly taken seriously and supported financially.

Historically, America has failed to side with black activists on a number of issues — including gun control — and continues to do so. This inability to recognize black activism is a detriment to real change that could affect a number of different communities, including those most at risk.

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

After all, the impact of gun violence on black communities is staggering. Black Americans are disproportionately affected by gun violence compared with white Americans. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, black Americans are, on average, eight times more likely to be killed by firearms than those who are white.

As innumerable white men continue to barrel the black-on-black crime narrative on social media and Reddit threads as an excuse to not listen to black protesters, black kids have been in the streets, on the internet, and in government buildings advocating for change in their schools and communities.

Often seen in society as older and less innocent than their white counterparts, black teens face stigma and implicit bias when protesting, which negatively impacts clear, intended goals.

Critics often have even conflated the Black Lives Matter movement with violence when, in fact, most Black Lives Matter organizations center their missions around reducing violence. Black teens have organized rallies, spoken with politicians, and confronted the NRA in an effort to get guns out of dangerous hands and particularly out of communities where they’ve been especially destructive.

Instead of praise, many of the teens and young black people active in protesting injustice were shut down, ignored, or, worse, persecuted.

We can do better than that.

When we financially support organizations that mobilize to decrease violence in communities, call out racist statements on social media made in response to black kids calling out injustice, and praise black kids just as much as other youth when they protest, strategize, and organize, we can create a system that supports the values of all people.

The road to justice and commonsense gun reform is long and complex, but young people of all demographics have shown this world that change is possible when we listen.

Let’s ensure our society is listening to all voices — not just those who fit a certain narrative.


For more of our look at America’s gun violence epidemic, check out other stories in this series:

And see our coverage of to-the-heart speeches and outstanding protest signs from the March for Our Lives on March 24, 2018.

Read more: http://www.upworthy.com/parkland-kids-are-changing-america-here-are-the-black-teens-who-helped-pave-their-way

Parkland students offer 7 great ideas about gun control plus a ridiculous one.

In the lead-up to the March for Our Lives, The Guardian turned its pages over to the editors of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School’s student paper.

Eagle Eye staff wrote or edited more than a dozen stories on the British media outlet’s U.S. website, complete with a number of great on-the-ground reports from the march itself. It was a really great idea, giving a large platform to some budding young journalists, and it was largely well-received.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student Emma Gonzalez stands with other students during the Washington, D.C., March for Our Lives. Photo by Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images.

One story did inspire a bit of controversy: “Our manifesto to fix America’s gun laws” included a few clumsy goals mixed in with the good.

First, there’s the good: Eagle Eye editors propose banning semi-automatic weapons that can fire high-velocity rounds, writing, “Civilians shouldn’t have access to the same weapons that soldiers do. That’s a gross misuse of the second amendment.” Presumably, the students are referring to a renewed ban on so-called assault weapons, something that a recent Quinnipiac poll found was supported by around 67% of Americans.

They also call for a ban on bump stocks; the creation of a database for gun sales and elimination of background-check loopholes; a repeal of the Dickey Amendment, which prevents the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from conducting any research that results in a recommendation for more gun restrictions; and for the government to raise the purchase age requirement to 21.

Then there’s the not-so-good: “Dedicate more funds to mental health research and professionals,” reads one of the recommendations, noting, “Many of those who commit mass shootings suffer from [PTSD, depression, and other debilitating mental illnesses].”

The trouble with that recommendation isn’t in the actual policy itself — it’s true that increased funding for mental health research and professionals would be helpful, generally — but in its justification.

As it turns out, individuals with mental illness are actually less likely than those without mental illness to carry out a gun-related homicide. Where mental illness does play a big role in gun deaths is suicide. So by all means, we should dedicate those funds to mental health programs, just not for the reasons these students are suggesting.

Millions of people around the country attended March for Our Lives rallies on March 24, 2018. Photo by Shannon Finney/Getty Images.

Another less-than-ideal agenda item is a call to increase funding for school security. Marjory Stoneman Douglas had one armed school resource officer on campus the day of the shooting. Can one officer protect 3,000 students? Probably not. Is the answer to fill halls with armed guards and officers? Also probably not.

Yes, a school resource officer is responsible for taking down the gunman in the recent school shooting in Maryland. That is commendable, but there are unintended consequences of merging our schools with the police state: Time and again, school resource officers have been caught getting physically violent with students — especially students of color.

One idea in particular is worth another look: Allowing mental health providers to more freely speak with law enforcement about patients.

This may sound like a good idea, but it’s actually a call to relax privacy laws and likely will just make the entire situation a whole lot worse. It is worth considering the students’ context here, however:

“As seen in the tragedy at our school, poor communication between mental healthcare providers and law enforcement may have contributed to a disturbed person with murderous tendencies and intentions entering a school and gunning down 17 people in cold blood.

We must improve this channel of communication. To do so, privacy laws should be amended. That will allow us to prevent people who are a danger to themselves or to others from purchasing firearms. That could help prevent tragedies such as the Parkland massacre.”

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School staff members return to school on Feb. 23 after the shooting. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

To be sure, most people who’ve been following the story coming out of Parkland will be able to agree that the shooter, Nikolas Cruz, fell through the law enforcement cracks. There were warning signs, but the real issue wasn’t that law enforcement didn’t know; it was that after school guidance counselor tried to have him involuntarily committed in 2016, a state agency determined that his “final level of risk is low.”

Basically, everyone involved was human — but still in touch with each other. That’s because the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) already allows health providers to communicate with law enforcement if they believe there is a “serious and imminent threat of harm to self or others.”

In fact, under HIPAA, providers have a duty to notify law enforcement in those situations. Further loosening those rules will only discourage people from seek help they need.

Also, law enforcement has an extremely sketchy history when it comes to responding to calls involving mental illness. A 2015 report found that nearly 1 in 4 fatal police encounters involved someone with mental illness, making mentally ill people an estimated 16 times more likely to be shot by police compared with the rest of the population — in part because not enough police officers are trained to deal with the mentally ill.

The general scope of the Parkland students’ goals appear well-intentioned and actually within reach. Still, it’s worth considering a few unintended consequences.

This is the starting point of a discussion, and the world is better because these students are speaking up for what they believe in. They may not get it totally right 100% of the time, and that’s OK.

People attend the March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C. Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images.

Read more: http://www.upworthy.com/parkland-students-offer-7-great-ideas-about-gun-control-plus-a-ridiculous-one

She was nice to the boy who bullied her. He still turned into a mass shooter.

Julia Suconic, hugs her friend Nathan Schoedl. Both are students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Photo by Gerald Herbert/AP Photos.

The first time Isabelle Robinson met Nikolas Cruz, he knocked the wind out of her and smirked as he watched her cry.

“The force of the blow knocked the wind out of my 90-pound body; tears stung my eyes. I turned around and saw him, smirking,” Robinson, a survivor of the Parkland shooting, writes in an op-ed for The New York Times. “I had never seen this boy before, but I would never forget his face. His eyes were lit up with a sick, twisted joy as he watched me cry.”

It’s a chilling picture, one made even more frightening by the fact that Robinson assumed that adults would take notice and take care of the situation. She even showed Cruz kindness. Five years later, Robinson writes, she was huddled in a closet as he took 17 lives.

Robinson’s piece isn’t a personal takedown of Cruz. Rather, it’s a reality check for those who believe that “kindness” will stop school shootings.

This is an idea that has been perpetrated by the leaders of the “Walk Up, Not Out” movement that made headlines leading up to nationwide school walkouts on March 14.

On the surface, the idea is deceptively logical: If more people were friendly to those deemed “outsiders,” gun violence would decrease and schools would become safer places.

On March 14, encourage students to walk up. Walk up to the kid who sits alone at lunch and invite her to sit with you. …

Posted by Amy Flynn on Thursday, March 8, 2018

But the reality of the situation is much different. As Robinson recounts in her op-ed, kindness is exactly what she tried to show Cruz. In eighth grade, a year after she says he physically assaulted her, she was assigned to tutor him. She did her best to push down her feelings of fear as Cruz continued to harass her.

“Despite my discomfort, I sat down with him, alone,” she writes. “I was forced to endure his cursing me out and ogling my chest until the hourlong session ended. When I was done, I felt a surge of pride for having organized his binder and helped him with his homework.”

“Looking back, I am horrified. I now understand that I was left, unassisted, with a student who had a known history of rage and brutality.”

The reason Robinson didn’t refuse the assignment? She cites a “desire to please” and to be seen as mature. “I would have done almost anything to win the approval of my teachers.”

That’s what those who believe that kindness alone is the answer are missing: that the children they’re entrusting with the task of ending violence are just that — children.

Make no mistake, Robinson isn’t against the idea of kindness. But kindness isn’t enough. And when it comes to solving issues like gun violence, students — who load up their backpacks and go to school with the expectation of learning in a safe environment — should never be the first line of defense. Nor should the blame for violence be placed squarely on those who have been victimized in school shootings.

Brandon Dasent and Tyah-Amoy Roberts, students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

“It is not the obligation of children to befriend classmates who have demonstrated aggressive, unpredictable, or violent tendencies,” Robinson writes. “It is the responsibility of the school administration and guidance department to seek out those students and get them the help that they need, even if it is extremely specialized attention that cannot be provided at the same institution.”

Robinson’s story is both heartbreaking and all too familiar. A tragedy like Parkland has everyone demanding answers and seeking solutions. But too often, the conversation steers to victim-blaming, with fingers quickly being pointed at the survivors for not doing enough to prevent the tragedy. Even when, as in Robinson’s case, students actually put themselves in potential danger trying to be kind.

Asking children to put themselves in danger in the name of kindness is not the answer.

“The implication that Mr. Cruz’s mental health problems could have been solved if only he had been loved more by his fellow students is both a gross misunderstanding … and a dangerous suggestion that puts children on the front line,” Robinson states.

But then what should be done? While children are leading the #NeverAgain movement, they can’t be the only ones who demand change. As adults, we must protect them at all costs. And that means we must listen. And we must take action by recognizing that kindness isn’t the first line of defense against mass shootings — widespread gun reform is.

A sign featuring Emma Gonzalez is seen at the March for Our Lives Los Angeles. Photo by Sarah Morris/Getty Images.

Read more: http://www.upworthy.com/she-was-nice-to-the-boy-who-bullied-her-he-still-turned-into-a-mass-shooter

Michael Ian Black makes some great points about how we raise boys.

Boys are broken,” wrote comedian Michael Ian Black on Feb. 14th.

Just hours earlier, a gunman shot and killed 17 students and teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The tragedy led Black to get a bit introspective about his gender and speculate the role society’s more toxic messages play in these much-too-frequent massacres.

“Until we fix men, we need to fix the gun problem,” he wrote on Twitter. “The last 50 years redefined womanhood: Women were taught they can be anything. No commensurate movement for men who are still generally locked into the same rigid, outdated model of masculinity and it’s killing us.”

A week later, The New York Times published an op-ed by Black tackling the issue in more detail.

“Too many boys are trapped in the same suffocating, outdated model of masculinity, where manhood is measured in strength, where there is no way to be vulnerable without being emasculated, where manliness is about having power over others,” Black wrote. “They are trapped, and they don’t even have the language to talk about how they feel about being trapped, because the language that exists to discuss the full range of human emotion is still viewed as sensitive and feminine.”

The point he was making was that we aren’t doing enough as a society to encourage and support boys and men emotionally. He’s right — and there’s data to back him up.

On March 7, LGBTQ student organization GLSEN shared some interesting findings related to Black’s argument. It’s the same point that’s been made a number of times before by writers like Bryan Epps, Lauren Sandler, and Jennifer Wright: Society’s outdated vision of masculinity can be harmful.

The argument is not “anti-men” or “anti-boys,” but a plea to provide the necessary support to sidestep toxic masculinity.

According to GLSEN, a study of the 31 mass school shootings between 1995 and 2015 found that “each shooter was male and all experienced challenges to their performance of masculinity, through homophobia and other forms of gender policing,” to which they responded by trying to “prove their tormentors wrong.”

Disturbingly, it looks as though teachers are actually getting less involved in trying to protect their students from bullying.

Creating an environment where bullies thrive unchecked is bad for all students. When that bullying centers on how boys express their masculinity, it simply results in more bullies and, occasionally, violence.

The way we talk to and about boys fosters unhealthy personal expectations, leaving many to feel isolated, alone, and afraid to seek help when they need it.

“Globally, boys are allowed far less space than girls to act outside the norms forced upon them,” GLSEN tweeted.

Of course, as the group notes, “most boys experience some gender policing and don’t commit acts of mass violence like in Parkland.” It’s not meant to be an excuse for atrocities, but maybe a bit of an explanation.

There’s nothing wrong with being a man, but maybe we do need to rethink what it means to be one.

“Our society’s typical notion of what it means to be a man might keep boys from reaching out or accepting help,” GLSEN tweeted, continuing:

“It may also lead them to assert masculinity via weapons that are often exalted as symbols and tools of masculine strength and power. … There is no one cause of mass school shootings. Nor should there be one response. Yet, for the wellbeing of young people of all genders, it’s crucial for EVERYONE (in schools and elsewhere) to expand our ideas of what being a man can and should be.”

“We know ourselves to be men, but don’t know how to be our whole selves,” Black tweeted.

The last two tweets from his thread tell the whole story — the fragility, the fear, the need for help. Having these tough, honest conversations, however, are a great place to start changing the world for the better, for children of all genders, not just boys.

“We’re terrified of being viewed as something other than men. We know ourselves to be men, but don’t know how to be our whole selves. A lot of us (me included) either shut off or experience deep shame or rage. Or all three. Again: Men are terrified,” Black wrote. “Even talking about this topic invites ridicule because it’s so scary for most men (and women). Men are adrift and nobody is talking about it and nobody’s doing anything about it and it’s killing us.”

Read more: http://www.upworthy.com/michael-ian-black-makes-some-great-points-about-how-we-raise-boys

Trump misses the mark on his gun response, and we deserve better.

On Feb. 14, a former student walked into Parkland, Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where he shot and killed 17 people.

It was the 18th school shooting in this year’s first 45 days. Like a number of other recent shootings, the gunman used a highly customizable AR-15 semi-automatic rifle. Like many more, the shooter had a history of domestic violence.

In an interview with the Daily Beast, classmates of the suspect, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, described him as “creepy and weird” and an “outcast” known for spreading anti-Muslim hate and wearing President Trump’s ubiquitous “Make America Great Again” hat.

Students react following the shooting. Photo by Michele Eve Sandberg/AFP/Getty Images.

When it came time to address the country in the wake of this tragedy, Trump did what many politicians do in these situations: He blamed mental illness.

“So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled from school for bad and erratic behavior,” Trump tweeted Thursday morning. “Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!”

But then what? In fact, according to BuzzFeed, the FBI was made aware of Cruz as a potential school shooting threat back in September. Cruz allegedly posted online, “I’m going to be a professional school shooter.”

At what point should he have been stopped? Trump placed blame on people for not reporting Cruz to law enforcement, when in fact, he was.

Then there’s the matter of mental health.

Trump addressed the county from the White House on Feb. 15, 2018. Photo by AFP/Getty Images.

Speaking from the White House, Trump managed to avoid mentioning the word “gun” in his televised address. Rather, he tossed in a few religious references, saying, “In these moments of heartache and darkness, we hold onto God’s word in Scripture: ‘I have heard your prayer and seen your tears. I will heal you.'”

He committed to visiting the school sometime in the near future, and said that the country needs to “tackle the difficult issue of mental health.”

Gun violence isn’t a mental health issue, and even if it were, our government is failing to address “the difficult issue of mental health,” generally.

A 2014 study by Drs. Jonathan M. Metzl and Kenneth T. MacLeish set out to explore the connection between mental illness and mass shootings.

Together, Metzl and MacLeish examined four of the major arguments made in the wake of mass shootings: that mental illness causes gun violence, that a psychiatric diagnosis can predict future violence, that we should fear “mentally ill loners,” and that gun control won’t prevent future mass shootings.

What they found was that mental illness and gun violence have a tenuous connection at best, and that a lot of the rhetoric around that connection is vastly oversimplified.

Even if mental health and gun violence shared a convincing causal relationship, the fact is that this administration has repeatedly tried to gut Americans’ access to health care — including mental health That leaves us with just two options: Either our politicians don’t believe this is actually a mental health issue, or they think it is but don’t care enough to fix it.

Neither option is cutting it. We deserve better — so do our kids.

Columbine was 25 fatal school shootings ago. We’ve done shockingly little to prevent this from happening again. Our collective shrug has created a generation that sees this as a normal part of life.

But even they’re not having it anymore. On the morning of Feb. 15, Parkland students Kelsey Friend and David Hogg went on CNN, and pointed out what’s painfully obvious about solutions that involve little more than offering “thoughts and prayers” and blaming mental health. “What we need more than [thoughts and prayers] is action,” said Hogg.

“We’re children,” he said. “You guys are the adults. You need to take some action and play a role.”

Read more: http://www.upworthy.com/trump-misses-the-mark-on-his-gun-response-and-we-deserve-better

What stopped this man from nearly becoming a school shooter.

Sometimes, a shared moment of deeply personal honesty does more good than pointing fingers.

When Aaron Stark was a teenage high-schooler in the mid-1990s, he was depressed and a victim of bullying. He collected weapons and fantasized about becoming a school shooter.

Instead, compassion from others helped him turn his life around.

Stark recently shared his experience in a powerful new essay published by Denver NBC affiliant 9News called “I was almost a school shooter.” He also read the piece on camera in an act of personal courage and honesty he hopes could help someone else walk back from the brink.

I was almost a school shooter

“I was almost a school shooter.”

America’s sad history of school shootings does not include Denver’s North High School in the mid 1990s, because the shooting never happened. This is an open letter, by Aaron Stark

Posted by NEWS CENTER Maine on Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Stark had been bullied for years and was close to lashing out

“I was picked on and bullied. For being fat. For being smart. For not playing sports,” Stark writes of his time at Denver’s North High School. “So I got angry, and I started hiding weapons around anywhere I hung out at frequently. I had hidden around me knives, sticks, shanks, brass knuckles, whatever. I always kept one in arms reach.”

Stark said that while mental health was a real issue for him, he also thinks a “lack of love” seriously affected his worldview and thinks that may have been a factor for “this kid” — meaning Florida school shooter Nikolas Cruz — as well.

One thing kept him from taking the ultimate step.

Before he got the help he desperately needed, he gives credit to one thing that kept him from becoming a school shooter: He didn’t have access to an assault rifle. The now-defunct federal assault weapons ban, first passed into law in 1994, meant that it was virtually impossible for someone like Stark to purchase the type of weapon commonly used in mass shootings, including the Parkland school shooting.

Stark writes:

“I didn’t have access to an assault rifle. I was almost a school shooter. I am not a school shooter because I didn’t have access to guns. Guns don’t kill people, people kill people. But people with guns kill lots of people.”

Strong laws and compassion saved his life and potentially countless others.

These days, Stark is a husband and father. He says he still occasionally struggles with depression but now has access to the necessary tools and treatments to face it. A combination of commonsense gun laws and access to mental health treatments helped him avoid a tragic turn in his life and eventually get better. He explains:

“I wrote this because my wife and daughter kept saying how they could not understand what could make someone do this. Sadly, I can. This is a hard conversation to have, but we must have it.”

Read more: http://www.upworthy.com/what-stopped-this-man-from-nearly-becoming-a-school-shooter

32 images that highlight the kind of movement the Parkland teens are building.

It’s been just over a week since the horrific massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, but survivors have already been busy pushing for gun reform.

Within a day of the shooting, Douglas students became cable news fixtures, many calling on Congress to restrict access to semi-automatic weapons like the AR-15 used to kill 17 of their teachers and classmates.

On Feb. 17, students gathered outside the Broward County Federal Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Cameron Kasky, Delaney Tarr, and Emma Gonzalez, among others, led the crowd in calls to reject the pro-gun narratives of groups like the NRA.

“The people in the government who were voted into power are lying to us. And us kids seem to be the only ones who notice and … call BS,” Gonzalez roared into the microphone in an instantly iconic speech. “Companies [try] to make caricatures of the teenagers these days, saying that all we are self-involved and trend-obsessed and they hush us into submission when our message doesn’t reach the ears of the nation. We are prepared to call BS.”

Cameron Kasky speaks at the Feb. 17 rally. Photo by Rhona Wise/AFP/Getty Images.

Delaney Tarr. Photo by Rhona Wise/AFP/Getty Images.

Emma Gonzalez. Photo by Rhona Wise/AFP/Getty Images.

On Feb. 20 and 21, students from nearby districts staged walkouts and marched down to Douglas High School for a vigil.

Many of the students came from West Boca High School, and traveled the 10 miles to Douglas High School on foot.

West Boca students Jakob Desouza and Ruth Williams hug as they gathered at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 20. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

More West Boca students arrive at Douglas. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

Students from Coral Glades High School, less than five miles from Douglas, staged a walk out of their own on Feb. 21.

Coral Glades students march. Photo by Rhona Wise/AFP/Getty Images.

“Stop protecting guns, start protecting kids.” Photo by Rhona Wise/AFP/Getty Images.

On Feb. 21, to mark a week since the shooting, students in  the Washington, D.C., area marched to Capitol Hill for demonstrations.

Students from Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, Maryland, took part in the action.

Students from Montgomery Blair High School. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images.

“Your child is next.” Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images.

Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images.

Hundreds of protesters, many of them students, carried signs and spoke out about gun violence outside the White House.

Signs with slogans like “We will not be next,” “NRA, stop killing our kids,” “Make America Safe Again,” and “You can silence guns but not us” were raised in public protest of the pro-gun lobby.

Photo by Olivier Douliery/AFP/Getty Images.

Protestors march to the White House. Photo by Olivier Douliery/AFP/Getty Images.

“Protect our lives, not your guns.” Photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images.

Photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images.

“Why are kinder eggs banned but not assault rifles?” Photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images.

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.

“We don’t have to live like this, we don’t have to die like this.” Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.

“Enough is enough.” Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.

That afternoon, President Trump met with a number of families affected by the shooting in a televised event, highlighted by an emotional question from Douglas senior Samuel Zeif.

Zeif was one of few people at the event to actually raise questions about inaction on gun control, asking, “How is it that easy to buy this type of weapon? How did we not stop this after Columbine? After Sandy Hook?”

Samuel Zeif wipes his eyes after asking his questions. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

Trump deflected calls for gun control, instead suggesting that we arm teachers.

Trump’s notes for the event, which included a reminder to say “I hear you,” were roundly mocked on social media afterwards. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

Also on Feb. 21st, students, activists, and supporters gathered at the Florida State Capitol building to demand action.

Earlier in the week, the state’s House of Representatives voted against opening debate on new gun measures.

Douglas students, parents, and gun safety advocates march on Tallahassee. Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images.

The rally at the Florida State Capitol building. Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images.

Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images.

Students rally outside the Florida State Capitol building. Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images.

Douglas student Kevin Trejos speaks at the Florida State Capitol building. Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images.

Meanwhile, students from across Broward county again gathered at Douglas High School for their largest rally yet.

Kasky addressed the crowd from atop a car, yelling into a megaphone. Later that night, he would confront Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) at a CNN town hall.

Cameron Kasky addresses area students at Douglas High School. Photo by Rhona Wise/AFP/Getty Images.

Photo by Rhona Wise/AFP/Getty Images.

Photo by Rhona Wise/AFP/Getty Images.

Photo by Rhona Wise/AFP/Getty Images.

Photo by Rhona Wise/AFP/Getty Images.

It’s easy to be cynical, to again say that nothing will change — but maybe this time is different? Only time will tell.

Let’s hope so.

Read more: http://www.upworthy.com/32-images-that-highlight-the-kind-of-movement-the-parkland-teens-are-building

Teen school shooting survivors are sending a passionate message Washington can’t ignore.

The adults have had their chance. Now it’s time to hear directly from kids about school shootings.

After the 18th confirmed school shooting in 2018, it can be hard to find new ways to confront how the previously unthinkable has become a regular part of our lives.

Lawmakers in Congress were already speaking of a “sense of resignation” following the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting on Feb. 14, after recent massacres like that in Las Vegas failed to generate legislative action.

So the young survivors of Wednesday’s mass shooting took on that responsibility themselves, speaking out about the importance of gun safety.

“Some of our policymakers and some people need … to look in the mirror and take some action; because ideas are great, but without action, ideas stay ideas and children die,” senior David Hogg, 17, said in an interview with CNN.

This is the first time we’ve seen school shooting survivors respond directly to lawmakers on social media.

And Hogg isn’t alone. After President Trump tweeted about the shootings, a number of fellow Douglas survivors took to Twitter to refute the idea that school shootings are purely a mental health issue.

These aren’t kids used as political props. They are smart teens with real thoughts.

Bringing kids into a political debate can be complicated, even when it’s for a message we agree with. But that’s not what happened here.

The student survivors of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School took action on their own, sending a powerful message to lawmakers that they can no longer rest on the sidelines while children continue to die from gun violence.

“I want to show these people exactly what’s going on when these children are facing bullets flying through classrooms and students are dying trying to get an education,” Hogg told CNN. “That’s not OK, and that’s not acceptable, and we need to fix that.”

If the adults can’t take action, maybe they’ll listen to the survivors.

The grownups have been locked in a gun safety stalemate that shows no sign of letting up. Even common-sense changes — like expanded background checks — that have near-universal support stall in Congress, thanks, in large part, to the powerful lobbying efforts of the National Rifle Association.

It’s easy to ignore people on the other side of the political aisle.

It’s not easy to ignore children who just watched their fellow classmates die while also facing down their own deaths.

Image via CNN.

Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) followed Hogg’s interview on CNN and said that Hogg and his classmate Kelsey Friend confronted him directly with a challenge:

“When they were leaving, I went to tell them how brave I thought they were, and [Hogg] looked at me and he said, ‘We want action.'”

Read more: http://www.upworthy.com/teen-school-shooting-survivors-are-sending-a-passionate-message-washington-can-t-ignore

Chuck Todd nailed why Trump’s SOTU just didn’t cut it for so many Americans.

NBC’s Chuck Todd has an issue with President Trump’s first State of the Union address.

It’s not that it was a bad speech, necessarily. It’s just that the Donald we all know didn’t give it.

Speaking on MSNBC after the State of the Union, Todd dove into why Trump’s inauthentic speech failed to deliver.

Photo by Larry French/Getty Images for SiriusXM.

“It is hard to judge these speeches because we know it’s not him,” Todd said. “It’s him reading off a teleprompter.”

“There are some things he says that sound like him totally, you know. He’ll throw in a ‘beautiful’ and an extra ‘totally.’ But you can tell he is reading it. He doesn’t own it. … I think [the Trump administration] would be better off letting him ad lib because it would be authentic. There is a missing authenticity here.”

Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images.

After others on the panel began laughing at the thought of the president improvising the State of the Union, Todd clarified what he meant.

“You guys are laughing,” he said, grinning. “I’m being semi-serious here.”

Americans know the president as a man who jabs at political opponents using disparaging nicknames on Twitter — not a guy who genuinely wants to bring people together, Todd explained. “I’m just saying; the Donald Trump we know as a country, that we interact with every day, with his Twitter feed, with the asides and all of this — the guy that likes to give us all nicknames — that isn’t who you saw [at the State of the Union], right?”

Beyond tone, Trump’s attempts at bipartisanship also fell flat to many because he’s thrived on divisiveness throughout his first year in office.

Unifier-in-chief? Eh, not so fast.

Although the White House touted Trump’s first State of the Union as “bright and optimistic” — a means to bring parties together — the branding may not have stuck. Polling from last year found the overwhelming majority of Americans believe Trump does more to divide the country than unite it. One speech won’t flip that figure overnight.

Reaction shots of many Congresspeople in the audience showed that not everyone was impressed by Trump’s speech. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.

And when it comes to the issues, Trump’s calls for unity just didn’t sync up with reality.

Trump took sole credit on job creation, shrinking the unemployment rate among black Americans, and boosting manufacturing — all signs of an improving economy that surfaced under President Obama. When it came to issues like immigration, health care, and national security, Trump played to his own base, blasting Obamacare, cheering the existence of Guantanamo Bay, and highlighting a necessity to stand for the national anthem.

“President Donald Trump’s first State of the Union address was billed by the White House beforehand as a speech that would be ‘unifying’ and ‘bipartisan,'” Jonathan Allen wrote for NBC. “It was neither.”

But even if it were, would Americans buy it?

“You don’t see this Trump very often so I don’t know if it can sell anything,” Todd concluded on MSNBC. “That’s my point here. So I don’t know how much ability this version of President Trump does to persuade anybody because you don’t see it very often.”

You can watch Todd discussing his thoughts on the State of the Union at MSNBC.

Read more: http://www.upworthy.com/chuck-todd-nailed-why-trump-s-sotu-just-didn-t-cut-it-for-so-many-americans