Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The students walking out of school to protest gun violence...and those who aren't

Sabrina's school recently sent an email about this morning's walkout by students across America, to protest gun violence. The school wanted all students interested in participating to join in, and reassured parents that the 17-minute walk—to honor the 17 students and adults who were massacred at Marjory Stone Douglas H.S. in Parkland, Florida—would be in a secure location.

I didn't think twice about the fact that Max's school wasn't participating until last night, when Sabrina shared a speech that she and three other students had written, which they would be giving to the rest of their class. She wrote about about the importance of knowing what could be done to help prevent gun violence, so that change could take place and students could stay out of danger. I teared up as I read it, and I felt proud of her for joining in.

I thought of Max. I hadn't seen anything from his school about participating in the walkout. But then, Dave and I hadn't discussed Parkland with Max, or the Las Vegas shooting. And perhaps the school hadn't done the same with its students for the same reason we had.

Max's cognition is coming along. He does have an understanding of what death means. But he does not yet know or understand guns or violence. When Max didn't bring Parkland up—he doesn't watch the news, it's not something he'd discuss with friends—Dave and I made the judgment call not to discuss it with him.

I've read articles about sharing age-appropriate information about school shootings with children. This is on my list of questions to discuss with Max's neurologist, and the school psychologist. It is hard to know what age, developmentally, Max is at. He has a high amount of emotional intelligence, but grasping concepts like guns and people hurting students seem beyond his cognition. We did not want to alarm him. Sabrina has brought it up, and we've had a series of discussions about safety at her school.

Not discussing this with Max has weighed on me: I do not want him growing up in a hothouse. Are we underestimating him? I'm going to see what happens tonight, when we talk with Sabrina about what she did at school today. Perhaps Max will ask questions, and they could lead to some sort of baseline discussion.

I owe it to Max to keep thinking on this.

I owe it to the Parkland 17, too.


  1. Most schools have lockdown drills. Teachers have to find a way to explain to students as young as 4 what is going on. If Max has been through drills that might be a good starting point for a discussion.

  2. There are many things I am guilty of not discussing with Luke (15). The biggest reason is that he is non-verbal and I have no way of knowing what he is understanding and what he isn't. I know he understands a whole lot more than any of us realize. But concepts like violence, guns (we don't own any), death aren't as easy as showing him that the stove burner is hot and it hurts. He appears to not understand the safety issues involved with crossing the street.

    I do like Barbara's suggestion of a starting point.

  3. If I could shield my children from knowing about such evil as school shootings, I would. If I could somehow not know that such evil exists, I would gladly bury my head in the sand. I can understand why you would want to tell Max if you thought the information would help him protect himself in an emergency, but otherwise I can’t see what good comes from explaining it to him. How is there really any way to explain the unexplainable and unthinkable?

  4. Sabrina, I'm proud of you for taking an active role in calling for change. Never let anyone tell you that you are too young to make a difference.

  5. Symbol world publishes simple news stories,with symbols to aid understanding. We often read them at work. Here is one about the march.

  6. It's so interesting that you brought this up. The other day I got into a brief "discussion" on Twitter with a man who was outraged about a high school for disabled students in which the students DID observe the walkout. He insisted that this was a despicable exploitation of kids who he felt could simply not understand the issues, and were obviously being used by "progressive" teachers and outside organizations. Now, he was clearly simply extending a pre-existing belief that all gun control activism is a conspiracy and not in some way genuine. But what interested me was that he was totally unable to conceive of students with disabilities having any kind of independent opinion, or capacity to understand the issue on any level at all. Ironically, he seemed fixated on the fact that many of the students were in wheelchairs (!!!) I can't say I know the answer to your questions. My instinct is to err on the side of showing kids with disabilities the world as it is, while you have the chance to do it in a loving and supportive way. But it's a judgment call that probably needs to be made very individually. That said, it might be really useful to ask your school describe to you and explain their approach to teaching about social issues.


Thanks for sharing!

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