Dear students

By Reade Brower | Mar 01, 2018

Students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., have taken to the streets, demanding action. They are doing what adults have not been able to: galvanize a movement with their anger and have their voices heard.

They are courageous and articulate when they say enough to assault weapons in the hands of civilians. Like most Americans, they are not suggesting taking away guns or changing the Second Amendment; they want to take the weapon of choice out of the hands of unstable individuals, they want to ban assault weapons, strengthen background checks, increase training and make sure age limitations and waiting periods pass the commonsense test.

They should be commended for taking the bull by the horns with impassioned speeches and empowered actions, showing adults they will fight for the changes they demand.

The president and the NRA are shooting back, claiming that it is disgusting that some are politicizing the latest massacre. Instead of agreeing to limit automatic and semi-automatic weapons, the NRA uses scare tactics that this is about taking away all guns, not just assault weapons. The president suggests we put guns into the hands of teachers, saying that is the answer.

They miss the point: schools are not battlegrounds. Building walls, putting up fences and having armed guards is not progress. We are not a Third World country and this does nothing to make America great. How about taking the resources that it would cost to arm our teachers and instead providing our schools with more guidance counselors?

It’s time to give up on adults leading the action; students should continue to force change to help get our country on track. Watching them, you see determination and a dam beginning to break apart.

The problems go deeper than mental illness and what weapon was used -- fixing them are part of the solution, but in a sense, just Band-aids. Homemade pipe bombs, like those used at the Boston Marathon, can be substituted for guns, with equal destruction.

Seeing students stand up is the “feel-good” part of the story, but we need more; we need them to step up and demand that mental illness and bullying get the attention needed for change, something adults have failed to address.

Google: “I was almost a school shooter” and watch the video that comes up – it is chilling. One similarity noted is the semi-automatic weapons used to slaughter innocents. A more subtle similarity is that many shooters were bullied and ignored, cast aside by society, including the student body.

It comes down to exclusion; kids who are different become targets. It is the responsibility of adults to keep schools safe, but only students can bring these misfits, odd ducks (beautifully interesting) into the tribe, giving them purpose, rather than seeing them shunned. Open arms, not cold shoulders, diffuse violence; hopeless, depressed students feel like they have nothing to lose.

Going on television and standing in front of legislators is not where the most important acts of heroism will take place ... those will be in the everyday choices in the lunchroom or on social media. My hero will be the student who says “Enough” to bullying and goes out of their way to be inclusive, not once, but every day.

Gun violence and school shootings take root years before a trigger is pulled. In most instances, the shooter is an outcast who was bullied, ostracized and set apart from community. That needs fixing, and students can make it happen.

A zero-tolerance for bullying starts with the school administration; adults -- do your job. The important and lasting work needs to be done by students, calling out classmates who bully, either in school, out of school, or online. Belonging and being part of something is powerful, and inclusion of all is the goal.

Adults need you creating paths for everyone to belong to your tribe. Love and take care of those among you who are mentally ill, and the ones called fat or four-eyes or pimple-puss; never ostracize or laugh at their expense. Figure out what they add to your village, what they can teach you, and embrace their differences.

Students, when is the last time you went out of your way to sit down at lunch with a rejected classmate? When did you invite someone who needed to be part of something bigger than themselves along to just hang? If you can’t remember, will you challenge yourself to figure out -- what next?

If any student is excluded by fellow students, they have been failed.

The payoff, if you succeed, will be no more mass murderers arising from your schools.

“True teachers are those who use themselves as bridges over which they invite their students to cross; then, having facilitated their crossing, joyfully collapse, encouraging them to create their own.”

--- Nikos Kazantzakis, poet and novelist (1883-1957)

Comments (1)
Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | Mar 01, 2018 09:07


What Mr. Brouwer is saying effects adults as well as students. No one feels well being ostracized and set apart from the rest. ALL LIVES MATTER. Thankful that our local schools are participating on March 14th national walkout. Hoping many adults will be stepping out to show their support.

"Open arms, not cold shoulders, diffuse violence; hopeless, depressed students feel like they have nothing to lose." "Belonging and being part of something is powerful, and inclusion of all is the goal."



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