Desks and chairs in an empty classroom

A Mom and Advocate’s Thoughts on School Violence

(April 14, 2023) While I am a professional child advocate, first and foremost I am a Mom. I realize these things are not exclusive. But, at times they do come into conflict with each other. There are times when you have to decide what is the right decision for your child and your family and it may go against the things that you advocate for. These could include choosing where to live in the county, where to send your children to school, how to vote, etc. However, more often than not these two things – a mom and advocate – work completely hand-in-hand. I enjoy doing the work I do and talking to my children about it because they can understand it. When I mention that we are working to advocate for universal school meals – they understand that because my son just got pizza in the cafeteria that day; Or when I talk about the need for out-of-school programs, he understands that because he takes full advantage of any out-of-school offerings his school district provides.

One topic that has been increasingly hard to talk about is gun violence in our schools. Every day as I send my boys off to school, I hug them both extra hard and say a little prayer that they will be safe and return to me at the end of the day. Every single day I am fearful that someone who is mentally unstable and has access to deadly weapons will enter their school and take them away from me. If we had an argument that day about what to wear or where their shoes are, I worry that those will be our final moments, and I try hard to correct them before they head off to school. As my older son turns eight and is beginning to shrug off my hugs, I want to squeeze him tighter so he knows how much I want to protect him from the unknown that could occur in a building that should be the safest place, besides his home, that he could possibly be.

As an advocate, I think of the children in our county who face gun violence in their communities, or abuse and violence in their homes every day, and where school is their safe refuge from these violent places. They should feel protected, not fearful that this place, too, is now a place of potential violence. We focus on policies to improve the wellbeing of children, and we support and applaud the work of our partners who are advocating to change the policies around mental health treatment for adults, and sensible gun reform – including background checks and closing loopholes. We hope you will join us and our partners in supporting organizations who are leading this charge. We know this issue is so crucial to all of us, and in the meantime we will continue to hold onto our babies and hold legislators accountable for their action and inaction that allows these horrendous shootings to take place. All of our children deserve so much better.

Visit these websites and learn how you can become more active, engaged, and informed:
Moms Demand Action
Moms Rising Together
Sandy Hook Promise
Protect Our Schools
National Association of School Psychologists – Responding to School Violence: Tips for Administrators
American Academy of Pediatrics – Gun Violence Prevention
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychology – How to Talk to Children About Mass Shootings
Stand With Parkland
UPMC – Children, School, and Violence: What Students Can Do

Jamie Baxter, Allies for Children Executive Director