In a powerful speech, a college student told the Wake County School Board that children and teachers were suffering the consequences while elected officials offered only prayers and half-measures.
Kurstin Howe, a Meredith College student and member of Wake County’s Future Teachers program, had a question for her county’s school board last week: If the response to increased school shootings is to arm teachers like they were soldiers, would she be awarded a purple heart if she was shot and killed while protecting her students?
Would there just be the standard thoughts and prayers from elected officials and the NRA?
Would the next move be to arm teachers and turn schools into militarized zones?
She spoke at a Wake County School Board public meeting on April 11.
It was a direct and powerful message.
Since she said it more clearly than we’d be able to recount for you, we’re sharing her full remarks below, lightly edited for clarity:
I’d like to start off by remembering the victims of the Nashville shooting: Mike Hill, 61, Katherine Koonce, 60, Cynthia Peak, 61, Evelyn Dieckhaus, 9, Hallie Scruggs, 9, and William Kinney, 9. I’m here to tell you that I am scared, sad, and even angry. I am scared for my future students, I’m scared to walk into a school, and I’m scared to become a teacher. I am saddened by the fears teachers, students, staff, and I have to face every day, and I’m sad for all the lives lost due to senseless violence. Most of all, I’m angry. I’m angry because I have to be here and beg for change because not enough is being done.
Teachers are dying. Children are dying. Administration, even custodians are dying. While children and teachers are being slaughtered at school, school boards and legislative bodies are focused on pronouns, banning books, and critical race theory. We have our priorities in the wrong place.
I recognize and appreciate that you’ve called on lawmakers to ask for more safety funding and advocated for gun safety storage, but it is not enough. Schools around this country are paying for the consequences of inaction. Instead of focusing on what schools can do, we need to be focusing on what our government can do for us.
But first, we need to recognize the true problem. Our problem in this country is our gun culture.
This country has more guns than any other place in the world, and we have more guns than we do people. Increasingly around the country, gun restrictions have been on the decline. Just two weeks ago, North Carolina repealed the state’s requirement that a person needs to obtain a permit from a local sheriff before buying a pistol. We are going backwards.
I urge you to call on lawmakers in our state to pass common sense gun control laws and not turn our schools into militarized zones mimicking a prison building more than they already have. This means an assault weapons ban, a buyback program, raising the minimum which to buy semi-automatic weapons, banning high capacity magazines, strengthening background checks and gun licensing programs.
A bill like this can be passed in our state legislature.
I will leave you with this. As we know, military personnel get a Purple Heart if they are wounded or killed as a direct result of enemy action. If I happen to get wounded or killed by an enemy as a teacher, where is my Purple Heart? I will serve my children in keeping them safe in school, as I’m the last resort in keeping them alive. Instead of an award for trying to protect my students, I would have my name plastered all over the news while NRA-backed politicians continue to send their thoughts and prayers while nothing changes and we wait for the next one to come along.