Following the February school shooting in Parkland, Florida, young people across the country have been organizing to address the issue of gun violence and school safety. Focusing attention on the racial justice conversation, which has been missing from the national dialogue in this debate, thousands of black and brown youth activists across the country launched a petition on Friday, as they joined in the school walk-outs and days of service on the 19th anniversary of the Columbine, Colorado shootings.
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“While people take up the debate around school safety and gun control with new energy, the debate itself is nothing new. We know this because we are the Black and Brown young people who have been at the forefront of these debates…
We have come up in the age of the murders of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray and many other youth of color. Calls for an end to gun violence, which low income communities of color have been making for years, must include a demand for an end to police violence.
This call is especially critical under the Trump administration, which has shown little restraint in aggressively expanding the militarization of the state and reinforcing the criminalization of Black youth and communities of color,” the petition reads in part.
Following the Columbine tragedy, more than $1 billion has been funneled from the federal government towards increased policing of schools which has had a disproportionately negative impact on communities of color. The U.S. Department of Education recently released data collected on civil rights and school discipline which showed that nationally black students are arrested at school at disproportionate rates. In the 2015-2016 school year black students made up 15 percent of all students, but 31 percent of those arrested or referred to police—a disparity that has grown by 5 percent since 2013-14.
After the Parkland shooting, many elected officials are again pursuing more funding for policing in schools and metal detectors, rather than support for students and teachers. The black and brown youth of color are organizing in an effort to ensure that history does not repeat itself. The petition contains eight demands for local governments and elected officials, including divestment from school policing and investments in schools, teachers, restorative justice, mental health services, counselors, social workers and an end to gun and state violence.
The petition originated with and is signed by young people leading organizing with 22 organizations that have local, state and national reach. Additionally, in a powerful show of solidarity with black and brown youth, 20 prominent national and state partner organizations signed on as supporters, including the NEA.