GUILDERLAND — Three students appeared before the school board here on Feb. 15, calling on the board to pass a resolution requiring parent education about safe gun storage.
“We’re scared,” said Conor Webb, who stood alongside Nora Whiteside and Emily O’Connor.
“We demand more because we deserve more,” Webb said.
He is the president of the Guilderland chapter of March For Our Lives.
The student-run organization with chapters across the country was founded in 2018 following the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. A former student with discipline problems, Nikolas Cruz, 19, opened fire on students and staff on February 14 of that year, killing 17 people and injuring 17 others.
Following the massacre, a student-led March for Our Lives took place on March 24 in Washington, D.C., with coordinated protests in more than 800 locations across the country and around the world. In the United States, it is estimated that up to 2 million people took part in the protests, which included 90% of all electoral districts, crossing party lines, according to Everytown for Gun Safety, which helped organizers.
The umbrella organization March For Our Lives continues to track gun deaths and has recorded more than 167,745 since the shooting in Parkland, Florida.
“We have hundreds of student-run chapters across the country that are embracing change at the grassroots level,” its website says. “Whether it’s organizing a high school strike, lobbying for better campus safety, drafting statewide legislation, or showing up at school board meetings. and city council, our chapters are making a difference.”
Webb told the Guilderland School Board that between August 1 and November 30 last year there were at least 104 cases of shootings on school grounds, killing 20 people and injuring 79 people.
“At least 5.4 million children live in a home with at least one unlocked and loaded gun and at least 80% of school shooters under the age of 18 acquire their guns at home, including the recent Oxford shooter , Michigan, which killed four,” Webb said.
Ethan Crumbley, a 15-year-old sophomore at Oxford High School, has been charged with terrorism and the first-degree murder of four students for the November 30, 2021 shooting, and his parents have been charged with four counts of ‘manslaughter.
At the Guilderland School Board’s December meeting, following the Oxford shooting, the board discussed school safety at length.
Webb told the board on Feb. 1 that Everytown for Gun Safety and its grassroots organizations, Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action, released “a comprehensive roadmap to preventing shootings in schools and at the top of their list is secure gun storage.”
Everytown for Gun Safety, a nonprofit founded in 2013, is primarily funded by Michael Bloomberg, businessman and former mayor of New York.
“The actions proposed today are uncontroversial, backed by data, and most importantly, most could be taken tomorrow…” Everytown’s “roadmap” reads.
Most of the recommendations involve legislation at the state and federal levels, but several encourage local initiatives such as urging pediatricians to counsel families on the safe storage of firearms.
Additionally, educators are encouraged to ask about access to firearms, “particularly at home, whenever working with a student who may be at risk of harm to themselves or the school community. . Schools should be made aware of relevant extreme risk laws and how they should be used to prevent access to firearms,” the roadmap states.
“Because parents must be held accountable if they fail to secure their guns, we will issue a nationwide call to encourage prosecutors to bring enforceable charges against gun owners who fail to secure guns. who contribute to acts of armed violence,” the Everytown roadmap reads. . “In addition to activating our millions of supporters, we will work with prosecutors’ associations to make recommendations that prosecutors can act on.”
More than 1.5 million students across the United States now live in a school district that requires schools to educate parents about the critical importance of safe gun storage, Everytown says.
The group promotes a Be SMART program, stating the acronym for parents this way:
— Secure all firearms in their home and vehicles;
— Modeling responsible behavior around firearms;
— Ask about the presence of unsecured weapons in other houses;
— Recognize the role of firearms in suicide; and
— Tell your peers to be SMART.
Webb told the Guilderland School Board: ‘We are unnecessarily traumatized over and over again by these shooting threats. Tackling school safety must include tackling the gun violence that occurs inside and outside of our classrooms.
Webb said school boards in Vermont, Texas, California, Arizona, South Carolina and Georgia have passed resolutions requiring parent education on safe gun storage. Last week, the school board in Montgomery, Maryland, passed such a resolution, Webb said, urging Guilderland to do the same.
Webb said it would fit in with Guilderland’s focus on social and emotional health and safety. Each city, he said, has identified mental health as a second priority to reduce gun violence.
Board president Seema Rivera asked the students to send the school board more information for consideration at a later meeting.
In other business at its February 15 meeting, the Guilderland School Board:
– Heard by Deputy Superintendent of Business Neil Sanders that due to higher than expected costs for transportation contracts and also due to tax certiorari settlements, arising from the 2019 Guilderland revaluation, the fund balance and District reserves will be taken.
He said the money is “set aside for situations like this where we have unforeseen expenses”. The board will be informed of firmer numbers towards the end of the year, he said.
“Everything balances out. It does not affect us in the future,” Sanders said, adding that there will be no effect on the tax levy or the tax cap;
– I heard six teachers were named to the New York State Master Teacher Program this year: Ashley Girard and Stacy DiMura at Farnsworth Middle School and Max Corbett, Alicia McTiernan, Jared Foro and Deb Boyce at Guilderland Highschool.
Superintendent Marie Wiles said Guilderland had the most master teachers of any district in the region and possibly the state.
This year, 230 educators were appointed to the program, joining the master teacher network established in 2013, bringing the total number of selected master teachers in New York State to more than 1,400.
The program was created to recruit, retain and reward the best teachers in the high-demand subjects of math and science. To do this, teachers receive an annual stipend of $15,000, totaling $60,000 over four years, as well as a chance to learn through the State University of New York system;
— Heard from Wiles the results of a thought-exchange, which invited three groups to share their priorities for next year’s budget. A total of 307 students participated, 149 staff or faculty participated, and 187 parents or community members participated in the online survey. Results are posted on the district website;
— Authorized Wiles to sign a memorandum of understanding between the school district and the Guilderland Support Services Association under a contract valid from July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2024;
– Approved the establishment of a scholarship in honor of Demian Singleton, a long-time education leader in Guilderland who died of cancer on October 18, 2021 at the age of 52. The Dr. Demian Singleton Memorial Scholarship will recognize a student “who has overcome challenges and embodies the ideals championed by Dr. Singleton: social justice, inclusion, and enrichment for all. The purpose of the scholarship will be to assist with the cost of continuing education without regard to college grade point average or major”; and
– Consideration of a nine-page memorandum of understanding involving the school district, city and Guilderland Police Department for a school resource officer, which the board will vote on at its next meeting.
“We never had a memorandum of understanding,” Wiles said, explaining that in the past the agreement was more informal, but a written agreement is a requirement of the district safety plan.
The city pays the officer’s salary for the year and the school district then pays the city for the 180 days the officer is in the schools, Sanders said.
Board member Nathan Sabourin asked if the officer was armed and Wiles replied that he was.