March 20, 2018
We gather for safer, more
empathetic, and more loving schools
By Emanuelle Sippy & Nasim Mohammadzadeh
Nasim: On behalf of the Student Voice Team, thank you for joining us today at the Kentucky State Capitol, even despite the weather. My name is Nasim Mohammadzadeh, and with me is Emanuelle Sippy. We’re members of the Student Voice Team, a youth-led organization that supports students as partners in improving Kentucky schools. For the past six years, the Student Voice Team has worked to amplify student stories in education decision-making, and we do so again here today.
Emmanuelle: We gather here today to show Kentucky what we experience in our schools and our communities every day. We gather for safer, more empathetic, and more loving schools. We gather here today because fourteen students and three staff lost their lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and two students at Marshall County High School here in Kentucky have lost their lives in the past two months. The courage displayed by Douglas and Marshall County students as they raised their voices in the face of tragedy exemplifies the well-engaged citizenry our schools seek to foster.
Nasim: Please join us in a moment of silence for those who died at Douglas and Marshall County High Schools and for the many others who have lost their lives to guns, both in our schools and in our communities.
Nasim: To our fellow students, thank you for raising your voices. To our adult allies, thank you for standing with students and amplifying our voices. Today, we will hear from a wide range of perspectives--from rural students who grew up with guns in their home to city students who say they see too many guns on the streets. We’ll hear from a student with autism who implores us not to blame mental illness for our problems with school safety and a student who wonders why we are quick to call some students monsters when they commit a violent act without even considering whether they could be grappling with mental illness.
Emmanuelle: We’ll hear from two students who experienced the same school shooting but who have different ideas regarding what needs to be done to protect our schools. We’ll hear from students across Kentucky who speak to the ripple effect of guns in schools across America. And we’ll also hear from adult allies, a police chief and an educator, who speak to the systemic problems they see behind violence in our schools.
Nasim: It is okay that we don’t yet all agree on what needs to be done about violence in our schools. What is most important for now is that we grapple with the issue together, as a civil community that cares about our schools and that includes young people in the discussion.
Emmanuelle: Concerned citizens of Kentucky, this is not a call to arms. This is a call to ears. We gather today to listen and learn.