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In Wake of Parkland Tragedy, Listen to What Our Students Are Telling Us

It has been both moving and troubling to see high school students, now survivors of another horrific school shooting, plead with their elected officials for relief

erik gundersen
Erik Gundersen

Once again, American students, teachers, and families have to learn about, process, and absorb yet again another attack on an American school. The consensus is unequivocal. This is a real-life nightmare that, from all accounts, our legislative bodies are unwilling to act on, never mind discuss in any significant way. A nightmare that haunts our students and teachers, takes away from their school and work experiences, and hangs like a dark cloud over all that is being accomplished in American schools.

And yet, in light of the most recent attack in Parkland, FL, it has become clear that America's students, long the victims of these attacks, have become a leading voice in the need for a national conversation and action regarding gun violence. It would be an error to dismiss their loud, collective, and clear voice. Their demand is simple: that our elected officials, by virtue of the ethical and moral demands of their positions, take this issue seriously and address it in a substantive way. It has been both moving and troubling to see high school students, now survivors of another horrific school shooting, plead with their elected officials for relief.

Across the country, student voices have called, at the very least, for discussion and consideration of the following:

  • A reasoned, fact-based and comprehensive discussion of gun control, including limiting access to assault weapons;

  • A nationwide background-check system that serves to prevent access for those who should not possess such weapons;

  • Wide-reaching and easily accessible mental health services both in school and in broader society.

Our students' voices are powerful, thoughtful, and intelligent, and yet are too often dismissed by adults as they are sometimes deemed too simplistic and not based on reality and life experience. Clearly this is not the case as young people, many still in their early years of high school, have spoken and led with an impressive moral clarity.

The Bergen County Association of School Administrators (BCASA) hears their voice loud and clear, and lends its support to their efforts. Our collective responsibility to the 133,000 Bergen County students and their families demand that we do so. We join their voices in recognizing that this moment must not pass without action.

To our students: Know that we support, love, and care for you, and will continue to do all that we can, in partnership with law enforcement, to keep you safe. As we do that, we encourage you to continue to use your voices to call for the change that you seek. While we most often view our students as the leaders of tomorrow, they are also leading us today.

To our schools and communities: The members of the BCASA will continue to work in partnership with law enforcement, municipal government, and all those who share the responsibility for keeping our children safe. Know that we will work alongside you to provide our students with schools that are safe, secure, and which will continue to offer them strong academic, social, and emotional school experiences.

To our legislative bodies: Follow the ethical and moral mandate to keep our children and teachers safe. Listen to their pleas. Listen to their wisdom. Listen to them. Take action.

Erik Gundersen is superintendent of the Pascack Valley regional high school district. Brian P. Gatens is superintendent of the Emerson public school district. Adam Fried is superintendent of Harrington Park school district. All three are members of the Bergen County Association of School Administrators, which comprises school superintendents and other central-office personnel from Bergen County's 73 school districts and three charter schools.

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