As a public school teacher in the Fort Worth Independent School District, my students and their parents entrust me with their lives on a daily basis, a privilege I take seriously. I teach so that my students can learn, and I teach so that my students become critical thinkers who can go on to solve the problems left unresolved by previous generations.
In the aftermath of the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, we are watching our next generation of local, national and global leaders take shape. The student survivors speaking out against gun violence and demanding common-sense gun reform legislation are rewriting the post-mass shooting narrative of “thoughts and prayers” and working to solve a problem we adults have, for too long, deemed unsolvable.
As a teacher, I am inspired by their strength, passion and commitment. Their voices have power, and I am proud to see these students use them to create change. They have spoken with a fierce clarity, demanding common-sense gun reform legislation, and they have called on us to join them. We have a responsibility to heed that call, and that means we need to address the root issues surrounding gun violence. Already, however, we are witnessing some of our elected officials attempt to alter or water down that message.
Nationally, we have heard the calls to arm teachers, and locally, here in Texas, we have heard from leaders like U.S. Rep. Kay Granger, whose proposed solution is funding a federal grant program to install metal detectors in schools. As a teacher who understands the day-to-day realities of the school environment and as Granger's Democratic opponent in this year's elections, I strongly disagree. Our schools should not resemble prisons, and our teachers should not serve as wardens.
Recently, my own students learned their classes would be pulled for random, weekly metal detector checks, which left many of my students feeling like they were the problem. One of my students even said the checks made her feel like students were criminals. Rather than making my students feel safer, the metal detectors left them feeling uneasy and uncertain. Imagine how they would feel if, in addition to undergoing metal detector checkpoints, they knew their teachers were fully armed as well.
While these proposals may make our politicians feel good, they fail our students. Band-Aid style solutions, like arming teachers and installing metal detectors, fail to recognize that gun violence is not confined to our neighborhood schools. Mass shootings with mass casualties happen in theaters, concerts, restaurants and churches. If we truly care about our students’ safety, we have a responsibility to do more than what makes our elected officials feel better. We have a responsibility to put our students first and implement lasting change. This includes common-sense gun reforms such as universal background checks, banning bump stocks and similar gun accessories, and allowing the Centers for Disease Control to once again study gun violence in our country so that we can create evidence-based policy to address this issue.
To protect our students, we must proactively create policies addressing the issue of gun violence. We must demand leaders in Texas and across the nation take action, and we must work to implement real reforms, not conveniently vague policy proposals.
As our nation continues to engage in this long overdue conversation around gun violence, we each need to decide the role we want to play. Our students are leading the way, and now it’s up to us to follow. As a mother, as a teacher, and as a candidate for Congress, I’m choosing to stand on the side of the students.