The tragic school shooting in Uvalde, Texas cast a somber shadow over Wednesday’s State Board of Education meeting.
SBE Chairman Eric Davis opened the session with a plea to local, state and national leaders to recommit to protecting teachers and students.
“We must find within ourselves the courage and the wisdom to come together to work for meaningful solutions to the multi-headed beast of gun violence and inadequate care for those with mental illness and the rage pulsing through the veins of too many of us, including too many young men,” Davis said.
The state board chairman said the nation has endured the massacre of school children and their teachers for too long.
“How much longer will we blame each other while we continue to deny our children a safe school, neighborhood or a home and deny them a chance to graduate, have their own children while we continue the gridlock debate that fails to show how much we value and love our children? Davis asked”
Mass shootings have become common occurrences, Davis said, noting that the May 24 shooting at Robb Elementary School was the 27th this school year. He said there have been 212 mass shootings in the nation so far this year.
There will be more, Davis warned, while Americans “cast blame” instead of working together to solve the problem.
“Truth be told, we all bear some responsibility because its something of which we have failed to come together as a society to address,” Davis said. “We let our leaders use the issue to stir our political passions against each other rather than work together to solve the problem. In the meantime, our children are suffering.”
Davis didn’t specifically mention gun control in his statement, carefully steering clear of that political minefield.
The Uvalde shooting resulted in the deaths of 19 students and renewed the national debate about gun control. A bipartisan discussion on so-called “red flag” laws is advancing in the U.S. Senate. Such laws would allow law-enforcement officers to temporarily seize firearms from individuals who are threats to themselves or others.
The National Rifle Association and many conservative lawmakers are opposed to an outright ban on AR-15 assault rifle. Eighteen-year-old Salvador Rolando Ramos allegedly used an assault rifle in the Uvalde school shooting. An assault rifle was also reportedly used by Payton Gendron, 18, the alleged shooter in the racially-motivated Buffalo supermarket massacre where 10 people were killed.
State Board vice Chairman Alan Duncan applauded educators, who he said have been courageous in their response during school shootings.
Since the 1999 Columbine High School massacre in Colorado, 29 educators have been killed at school, including five who died in domestic disputes, Duncan said.
“The other 24 were in the midst of school shootings were children were lost and in everyone of these 24 instances there was extraordinary bravery by unarmed educators, principals and teachers alike who first and foremost went to defend their children, did everything they could to protect their children under the circumstances,” Duncan said.
He said educators are the first responders when school shootings occur and must be lifted up for the difficult jobs they are asked to do.
“We need to make this a profession where people really want to do it because you can make the biggest difference in someone’s life of any profession I know of,” Duncan said.