History and Social Science
Student Leadership in the Wake of School Shootings
Author: Matt O'Donnell
After the tragic school shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, several students began speaking out about gun violence and started a national conversation about school safety. Some of these students went to Washington to speak with lawmakers while others planned a protest march or used social media to spread their message.
Students have always had the capacity to lead; they were at the forefront of the civil rights movement from sit-ins at lunch counters to the LA student walkout in 1968. They have led protests around the country about the end of DACA. So it should be no surprise they are once again leading a movement.
On March 14th there will be a nationwide 17 minute school walkout to honor the 17 victims of the Parkland shooting. Schools leaders are reacting to this walkout in different ways. Some districts have said they will give students unexcused absences, others have said they will suspend participating students for three days. Many districts are taking a proactive approach to the upcoming walkout. For example, Santa Rosa City Schools will not punish students for walking out but will look at ways to ensure student safety as well as encourage student voice in class discussions around the issue.
The College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards from which the California Social Studies Framework was derived includes the following:
"Students need the intellectual power to recognize societal problems; ask good questions and develop robust investigations into them; consider possible solutions and consequences; separate evidence-based claims from parochial opinions; and communicate and act upon what they learn."
This week, students will be engaging in active citizenship in a way that is right in line with the type learning the new social science framework calls for. Teachers and administrators should be proud when their students can come together in an organized way to voice their opinions on an issue. They should also find ways to take this momentum and apply it to civic engagement, much like what the educators at Stoneman Douglas High School have been doing with their students for years.