OSEA members attend Student Gun Violence Summit

Last month, 150 high school students from around the country met in Washington, D.C., over the course of three days to create and ratify a Students’ Bill of Rights for Safer Communities.

OSEA member Brad Harvey, second from left, brought three students from Beaverton High School to the summit (Cameron Monfared, Camila Mejia and River Rain).

Among them were four students from Oregon who were accompanied by two OSEA members. Brad Harvey, a campus monitor and member of Beaverton Chapter 48, brought Beaverton High School students Cameron Monfared, Camila Mejia and River Rain; while OSEA Zone III Director Lisa Gourley brought Madelyn Neuchwander, a senior and Youth Advisory Council president at Sweet Home High School.

Over the summer, students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., called for a summit where students could come together to discuss their experiences of gun violence or trauma from violence and agree upon meaningful policy proposals. With support from the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the National Education Association (NEA), the summit became a reality.

According to Gourley, up until the summit the conversation surrounding gun violence has been about students but has not included them.

“We have failed for too long to keep (students) safe, and they are suffering from our mistakes,” is how Gourley summed up her take away from the summit.

Gourley was impressed with the students’ communication skills.

“They negotiated the conversations and topics with skill and compassion,” she said. “These are our country’s future leaders. They are amazing; they are a strong voice for their issues, communities and lives.”

Harvey led four break-out sessions on school safety.

The end result of the summit was a Students’ Bill of Rights for Safer Communities that asks “institutions, leaders and policy makers across the country … to adopt comprehensive measures to prevent this unnecessary violence.”

The bill’s policy suggestions include the establishment of school safety committees composed equally of students, parents and faculty; and that all students have immediate access to qualified counselors in safe spaces. The document also calls for more controversial measures such as universal background checks before all gun purchases and funding research into preventing gun violence by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Coming from a rural area, Gourley said she understands the conflicting points of view regarding guns.

“I am a gun owner, but I am a realist,” she said. “Let’s face it: The suggestion of arming teachers just brings more potential for violence into student populations. We need real solutions to real problems.

“Children should never be in harm’s way,” she added.

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