I became a teacher in 1999. This was the same year as the Columbine shooting, so I've spent my entire career in the shadow of gun violence in America's schools.
Every year I assure my students that they have nothing to fear while at school. I tell them with absolute conviction that I will always make the best decisions in an emergency and always stand between them and danger. As they ask their "What if?" questions during a lockdown drill, I always say the same thing:
"You don't have anything to worry about. I will never let anything bad happen to you. I will always be standing between you and anything that is bad."
Many teachers did that very same thing yesterday in Florida. Some lost their lives doing so.
I go to work every morning knowing how important my role is in keeping children safe. The parents of my students put their faith in me, just as I put my faith in my children's teachers every day. It's an incredible responsibility that I take very seriously. As unlikely as it may be, I know all too well that someday, I may be forced to keep my promise and stand between my students and danger.
Every teacher in America knows this. We live this everyday. It is the promise that we make to our communities. It's something we think about more often than you could imagine.
When I found a teacher unconscious in the hallway last year, my first thought was that there was a gunman in our school. As I ran to her, my second thought was, "Thank God there are no kids in the school right now." Thankfully, she was fine, but these were my first thoughts.
This is how all teachers think. Students first. Always students first.
Now that I have children of my own, this an even harder promise to make.
This is why I am enraged by the inability and unwillingness of of legislators to do anything despite the fact that there have been 18 school shootings in America this year alone.
After a shooting in Las Vegas took the lives of 58 Americans, for example, Congress promised us that they would enact a law banning the sale of bump-stocks, which turn semi-automatic weapons into automatic weapons. There was enormous bipartisan agreement on this issue at the time.
Then the bodies were buried, the memorial were concluded, the flowers wilted, and nothing was done.
I don't have the answers to gun violence in this country, but something must be done. My problem is that nothing is being done. As men, women, and children die in mass shootings throughout our country, in our school and public spaces, the best our legislators have to offer are hopes and prayers.
Nobody wants your hopes and prayers anymore. Stop with your hopes and prayers. They have proven to be as worthless as you have been when it comes to gun violence.
We want action.
We want debate. We want research. We want the funding of studies to find an answer. We want the ridiculous and unconscionable restrictions on the Centers for Disease Control lifted so that they can study gun violence with the full weight of their organization. We want a national registry that tracks gun violence in America and allows for statistical research. We want sensible interpretations of the Second Amendment. We want legislators to stop cowering in fear over the grades they receive from the NRA. We want legislators to stop forgetting their goddamn promises once the bodies of dead children are cold.
I don't want to hear another member of Congress offer hopes and prayers ever again.
I don't want to hear another member of Congress say that "now is not the time for debate."
I don't want to hear another member of Congress say that guns don't kill people. People kill people.
What I want to hear is vigorous debate. Expert testimony. Scientific study. Statistical research. Actual legislation.
I will leave my home this morning with the knowledge that there may come a day when my colleagues and I are required to take action to save the lives of our students. We do this with conviction and purpose. We do his with open hearts and minds.
If the teachers of America are ready to take that action on a daily basis, and in the case of places like Florida yesterday, are taking that action, risking their lives, and dying in an effort to protect their their students, the very least we can expect is for lawmakers in Washington to find the courage to debate. Discuss. Research. Deliberate. Listen.
And legislate, goddamn it. Become a part of the solution instead of the silent, useless, cowardly mouthpiece of hopes and prayers that you have been for entirely too long.
Do something. Children are dying, and you stand by and do nothing. Find the courage of conviction and take action, or quit. Leave. Go home. Give the job over to a teacher or a parent whose child was in that school yesterday when the shots were being fired.
We know what is at stake.