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Oregon Teacher Pens Scathing Letter to Lawmakers for Not Standing up to the Gun Lobby

How the absence of political action puts classrooms at risk.

image via (cc) flickr user dataangel

Following the horrific murder of nine people at Oregon’s Umpqua Community College last week, gun violence once again dominates our newspaper headlines, and is generating debate across a country in which mass shootings have become frustratingly, frighteningly common.

In Salon, Melissa Duclos, a creative writing teacher at another Oregon community college, describes how the Umpqua shooting prompted her to review her own school’s emergency preparedness protocols. Per her school’s instructions, she is to attempt to evacuate her students, then barricade herself in her classroom, and, should those options fail, be prepared to fight any incoming assailant to the death.

“Fight to survive,” Duclos writes. “I am a teacher, with a master’s degree in creative writing, and this is part of my job.”

Duclos doesn’t blame her college for what she calls “generic, unfollowable, completely incompatible with the reality of my school" but “ultimately in their inadequate way, essential” measures. Instead, she writes:

[Students] have to be prepared to hide out of the line of fire, and I to fight for our survival, because you, our lawmakers, haven’t done your jobs. I will tell them that their rights, my rights, the rights of my 5-year-old, to attend school without fear of facing senseless slaughter by machine-gun fire, are not important to you, that we must be prepared to fight tooth and nail, stapler and whiteboard marker, because you refuse to fight the gun lobby in this country.

It’s not a question of whether Duclos would or would not defend herself and her classroom against an attacker. The tragedy, she explains, is to be put in that position at all, thanks to the unwillingness of lawmakers to enact to enact meaningful firearm legislation.

In fact, the overwhelming majority of members in the National Education Union–the United States’ largest teacher’s union–endorse stricter gun laws by a two-thirds margin. Firearm legislation, they write, should also be coupled with “professional development [for educators] about bullying, mental and behavioral health, cultural competence, appropriate classroom management, and safety,” as well as increased access to mental health solutions such as “school-based health centers that diagnose and treat mental health disorders.”

Ultimately, writes Duclos, addressing lawmakers everywhere: “I hope that you think of me and my students, of the rest of the educators and students across the country, who have been asked to stand up to gunmen because you are too scared to stand up to a handful of lobbyists.”

You can read Duclos’ full, powerful essay in Salon.

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