DeKalb school board member: Lawmakers need to address gun violence

Legislators must act now to save children’s lives, Allyson Gevertz says

Here is an open letter to lawmakers from DeKalb County school board member Allyson Gevertz about the Texas school shooting, and the urgent steps she wants them to take to stop gun violence.

By Allyson Gevertz

I am a former school psychologist and current school board member. On behalf of educators and students across America, I beg you to take action on gun violence. In the 23 years since the Columbine tragedy, I thought surely you would enact legislation to help us. I had no idea how many times, over the years, you would fail to do so while I offered parents advice for talking with their children about school shootings.

When gun violence occurs in our schools, mental health professionals provide critical services. They engage potential perpetrators before they act, comfort relatives and friends of victims, and help survivors. In short, they have been on the front lines for years. I know you now recognize this. You are beginning to show that understanding through your funding priorities and policies.

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Allyson Gevertz (Courtesy photo)

Credit: Parker Smith

Allyson Gevertz (Courtesy photo)

Credit: Parker Smith

Combined ShapeCaption
Allyson Gevertz (Courtesy photo)

Credit: Parker Smith

Credit: Parker Smith

However, as a leader in Georgia’s third largest school district, I am floored that we are still having these discussions after shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, Santa Fe High and so many other schools. Have we learned nothing from the 169 deaths in mass school shootings since 1999?

When will you finally act to reduce the likelihood that mass shootings in our schools happen in the first place?

At a recent Board of Education retreat, the district’s school police discussed the security needs they wanted addressed. They asked for more officers, more bomb and firearm sniffing dogs, and metal detectors. Naturally, I want to do everything I can to keep our kids safe. At the same time, I can’t help but ask: Why are we expecting school districts to spend funds earmarked for education on active shooter defenses when our legislators refuse to implement common sense proposals such as universal background checks and red flag laws?

Lawmakers, 90% of Americans demand universal background checks. This is not a partisan issue. Our children and staff should not be asked to spend instructional time preparing for gun violence when you refuse to help us. Why are we debating whether students should be forced through metal detectors, whether teachers should arm themselves, and whether educators should divert classroom time training for active shooter scenarios when you do nothing to prevent those most at risk for perpetrating gun violence from having immediate access to powerful semiautomatic weapons?

Do we really want to live in a state where an 18-year-old cannot legally buy beer but the same teenager can lawfully purchase an AR-15?

Educators’ time should be focused on education. But we can only do our jobs when you do yours. It’s past time for you to do so.