A student at Community Day School participates in the national walkout for gun reform in March. (Photo courtesy of Community Day School)
I’m sure many of you saw the images or watched video of students across the country who staged a nationwide school walkout to protest for gun regulations and in honor of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting victims on March 14.
As adults, we say we want to protect our children, so we don’t allow them to walk home alone from school. We put blocks on their phones so they don’t see disturbing or inappropriate content. Or we make them check in with us regularly when they aren’t in our presence.
We try to provide them every advantage and opportunity to succeed. But we have failed to provide them safety in the one place they go every day, for at least six hours a day, without our supervision.
These children are afraid. They are scared for their lives. And they have had enough. Enough of going to school with the fear they might be victims of a massacre. Enough of being traumatized by active shooter drills in their classrooms, where they have to be quiet and hide in the dark for an hour. They do not want guns and armed personnel in their schools. They want to be safe.
And last week, they were willing to get suspended, to break through locked doors, to be threatened with detention in order to express their First Amendment rights to stand up for their safety. And these students will continue to organize, mobilize and stand up for their lives on March 24.
Many of you in our community support children in a myriad of ways: through service, volunteering or financial support. NCJW works on behalf of children every day through our community service programs, from the Children’s Rooms in the Courts and Project Prom to the Back to School Store. As a community, we need to do more.
We must show our children that we want to protect them and care for them. We need to do it in the one way that most of them cannot, given their youth — we need to pursue justice through our vote.
Now you may say, “I already do vote.” But you need to become a single issue voter.
Children’s safety. What does that mean? That means in every election, every time you vote, you need to consider, “Will my vote make children safe?” From now on, for every person you vote for, you need to be able to say with certainty, “With this vote, I am pursuing justice for those who cannot do so for themselves; I am making children safe.”
Don’t fail them. As the Torah says, “Justice, justice you shall pursue.” PJC
Cristina Ruggiero is the executive director of the National Council of Jewish Women-Pittsburgh Section.