Gun violence prevention advocates have numerous strategies for spreading their message. However, given the alarmingly high rate of mass shootings in the U.S. — and school shootings in particular — it's clear that the strategies haven't yet succeeded. Now, two former Obama officials have a gun reform idea of their own, and it starts in the schools.
Arne Duncan, the former secretary of education during the Obama administration has been publicizing this idea (which originally came from another former Department of Education employee, Peter Cunningham, theWashington Post reported) after the Santa Fe, Texas, school shooting on Friday, when a shooter killed 10 people and wounded 10 more.
"Maybe it's time for America's 50 million school parents to simply pull their kids out of school until we have better gun laws," Cunningham tweeted on Friday, along with a link to the breaking news about the Santa Fe shooting.
Duncan then retweeted Cunningham's tweet along with his own caption.
"This is brilliant, and tragically necessary," the former education secretary tweeted on Friday. "What if no children went to school until gun laws changed to keep them safe? My family is all in if we can do this at scale. Parents, will you please join us?"
Since Friday, Duncan has been running with that idea. In an interview with the Washington Post, he said that he knew that the strategy he and Cunningham have suggested is "provocative," but that similarly radical sounding ideas might be exactly what the gun violence prevention movement needs in order to actually succeed in changing the gun legislation.
“It’s wildly impractical and difficult,” Duncan told the Washington Post. “But I think it’s wildly impractical and difficult that kids are shot when they are sent to school.”
In addition to the tragic shooting on Friday, this idea is also coming after another piece of news that the Washingon Post also reported on Friday: so far, 2018 has seen more deaths in schools than in the military. According to the Post's analysis, there have been 16 school shootings in American schools in 2018, leading to the deaths of 29 people. By contrast, 13 service members have been killed, in and out of combat. There have been more — and deadlier, looking specifically at Parkland and Santa Fe — school shootings in 2018 than in any other year.
“This is not rocket science,” Duncan told the Washington Post. “This is not a difficult intellectual issue. What we have lacked is political courage, and we need to create the tension that allows us to break through on this issue."
Duncan received hundreds of responses on Twitter, including some that pointed out potential issues with the idea. For example, how does it work for a single parent who relies on school for childcare? In response to those responses, others said they would volunteer to provide childcare.
"Sounds brilliant unless you are the single parent who has to work as others have said," one Twitter user responded. "That’s where the village should stand in to assist the single parents. Sign me up for the village."
Some pretty high profile names in education expressed their support for Cunningham and Duncan's idea.
"We're in," tweeted Wendy Kopp, founder of Teach For America.
"I’m in - let’s pick a date and start a movement no politician can ignore," wrote Jim Manly, superintendent of New York City's KIPP Public Charter Schools. "As a Superintendent of schools I have to say I don’t like the idea of kids missing school but the images from Texas mean those 10 kids - and thousands like them - never go to school again," Manly continued.
Petitions calling for school boycotts have come up before, but they've never managed to get enough people signing on to actually go through with it. With those directly involved in education now calling for a boycott, though, perhaps things will change.