We have been married for over 57 years and we have committed, together, over 70 years to public education. We have continued our educational efforts with a focus on civic education both nationally and internationally throughout our retirement years.
I guess we could adopt the phrase used in the Farmers Insurance commercial, “We know a thing or two because we’ve seen a thing or two.” We have both served as teacher, principal and superintendent in our respective districts.
Bill’s experience focused on the high school level while Carol’s was mainly in the elementary grades. The greatest common denominator was our profound concern for student safety; this was what caused us both to lose sleep. We both wanted every child to reach his or her full potential and to do well in academics, arts and athletics.
But we also knew that a parent’s first and foremost concern was their child’s safety. They needed to be confident that their offspring would safely return to them at the end of the day. We held the same priority for our own two children. We took our responsibility for student safety very seriously and concerned ourselves with every “what if” that we could imagine in order to protect our charges.
In short, we didn’t just “wipe away tears and send thoughts and prayers” as our president suggested. We took measurable steps to ensure that whatever caused those tears was not likely to occur again.
The massacre at Columbine High on April 20, 1999, drastically altered the list of “what ifs” to now include mass murder. The horrific event at Sandy Hook Elementary School awoke the nation to the fact that even our youngest children were not safe.
During our early years on school campuses, the possibility of this carnage simply didn’t seem possible. Since our nation has already experienced 18 shooting on school campuses in this new year 2018, it is no longer a “what if” but a “when?”
Before you portray this as a liberal, left wing rant intended to take away your guns, let us assure that we fully support the Second Amendment. We both have possessed CCW permits and have been faithful to gun safety in our daily lives.
But, what sense does it make for an 18-year-old, disturbed dropout to legally buy an AR-15 and all the ammunition needed to commit such carnage? We know that many readers will bluster at us calling this an assault rifle, but that is exactly the purpose for which it was produced.
We also believe in the “pursuit of life, liberty and happiness,” which the 17 murdered souls will no longer enjoy.
Our political leaders have been lying to us. They say that we should restrict guns from the mentally ill. President Trump even blamed the Parkland, Fla., community for not reporting the past behavior of the shooter. Yet, Congress, with the president’s blessing, has made it easier for the mentally ill to have gun access. And the president’s recent budget includes funding cuts for school safety and mental health, further reflecting his true priorities.
The secretary of education, who has never professionally spent one day in the classroom, suggests that we might arm all teachers. Can you imagine a kindergarten teacher strapping a Glock to her waist as she sits on the floor to read them a story, waiting for a mass murderer with an assault rifle to enter her classroom? Just consider the fire power required to combat the AR-15 which has been used in many of these massacres. Those 17 lives in Parkland, Fla., were ended in just three minutes.
We both have progressed from sad to angry. Thoughts and prayers must be enhanced with policy and change. Our political culture needs to love the children as much as it loves its guns. Can you fathom a lobbying group like the NRA opposing any candidate based upon the safety of our kids? Even more radical would be to have a congressman or president (who have received thousands from the gun lobby) do the right thing!
It is time that we each "take up arms” through our voices and votes to end this madness.
Bill and Carol Hatcher are retired educators. The opinions expressed are their own.