Thursday marks one year since the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, which set off a wave of activism across the country, as students and youth called for more gun control and safer schools.
Young people in Philadelphia and other urban areas seized the opportunity to bring long-awaited attention to gun violence and trauma that impacts them on a regular basis.
But some activists, students, and teachers say one year later, not much has changed in the way of investments to fully address students’ needs.
Ismael Jimenez, a teacher at Kensington CAPA, was one of six panelists at a discussion forum on gun violence and trauma in schools and communities, hosted by the Caucus of Working Educators Sunday evening at Church of the Advocate in North Philadelphia.
“The hope is that we can really start a real conversation that can be extended into future activities and collaboration with folks that are really into changing the circumstances that produce so much trauma in our society,” said Jimenez, a member of the group.
The number of people shot in Philadelphia rose 10 percent in 2018 to 1,376, according to data from The Philadelphia Inquirer. About 10 percent of victims were under the age of 18, and almost 40 percent were between the ages of 18 and 25.
Educators and students say these statistics don’t tell the whole story, including the impact shootings have on the young people who witness or experience loss from gun violence. Research has shown these traumatic experiences can lead to behavior problems that diminish academic performance.
While state lawmakers and school districts like Philadelphia have increasingly recognized the importance of “trauma-informed” care in education, some of those at Sunday’s forum said they want the district to do more.
Herman Douglas, a seventh-grade reading and writing teacher at Mary McLeod Bethune School in North Philadelphia, and a member of the caucus said between 2017 and 2018, he lost six students to gun violence. Douglas says he’d like to see more counselors and therapists in schools for students.
“We’re treating kids who have basically gunshot wounds to their mind and placing a band-aid on it instead of actually performing surgery to make sure that they’re whole,” he said.