The shooting at a Parkland, Florida school that resulted in 17 dead happened more than six weeks ago, but the conversation on gun control and keeping students safe rages on.
About a week ago, black students at the school, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, organized a press conference to assert their own voices in the narrative. They were concerned that not only did this discussion leave them out, but solutions presented could actually adversely affect them:
“It’s bad enough we have to return with clear backpacks,” student Kai Koerber said. “Should we also return with our hands up?
Nadege C. Green is a reporter at WLRN in South Florida, where she covers social justice. She attended and live-tweeted that press conference, elevating students’ voices and ensuring they’re heard nationwide. Since her coverage, most mainstream newspapers have reported on students’ concerns.
A group of Black students from Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High called a press conference today to say they have concerns that may not mirror those of their white peers. And that the media should listen. #MSDStrong pic.twitter.com/f3iy85Szi7
— Nadege C. Green (@NadegeGreen) March 28, 2018
They’re speaking about proposed solutions to beef up law enforcement officials in the school. Students at that press conference shared concerns that increasing the level of law enforcement there could result in a higher likelihood that students, especially those of color, will be over-policed and punished more harshly.
Students with school-resource officers are almost twice as likely to be referred to law enforcement agencies: “The presence of a school resource officer (SRO) makes it more likely that a school will refer him or her to local law enforcement, which can lead to a criminal record,” wrote Kyle Spencer for the Huffington Post.
A criminal record before even graduating and this can negatively impact students’ college and career trajectory. And it’s not always a harsh response to something a kid did– sometimes, they’re just in the wrong place at the wrong time. In the same article, Spencer tells the story of Keyla Walker, a recent graduate of a high school where there was an officer. She was near a fight (one of her twin sisters slapped another girl). But the officer took it a step further and had the girls arrested.
Up until last week, David Hogg and other white voices led the discussion. Emma Gonzalez, a Latinx LGBT student has also led the charge but for weeks, this conversation hinged on just a few identities- which influences what solutions are pursued. Now with these voices on the table, it could force the school to find more nuanced solutions that protect all students. Law enforcement in schools and metal detectors don’t seem to work. In a recent interview with Axios, Hogg admitted that the media has left out black and voices of color. He says:“My school is about 25 percent black, but the way we’re covered doesn’t reflect that.”