Filling in the Blanks with Ramee Gentry: School board reviews resolution against gun violence

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Ramee Gentry is chair of the Alexandria City School Board.
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Following the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, the Alexandria City School Board reviewed language around a resolution against gun violence at its meeting on Feb. 22 and is expected to approve the following language on March 8.

Resolution against gun violence

Whereas, in school communities from Columbine to Virginia Tech to Sandy Hook to Parkland, the lives of hundreds of students and school employees have been lost to the epidemic of gun violence; and

Whereas, Alexandria City has not been immune to this violent epidemic as members of our community have been lost to gun violence and a mass shooting has taken place on our city’s recreational fields; and

Whereas, more than 153,000 students attending more than 171 primary and secondary schools have experienced a shooting on campus since the Columbine High School massacre in 1999; and

Whereas, hundreds of thousands of parents, guardians and school employees have been impacted by the mental health toll of caring for children who have experienced gun violence in their schools; and Whereas, there are more than 33,000 gun deaths per year in the United States; and

Whereas, nearly 1,300 American children age 0 to 17 die from shootings every year and 5,790 are treated for gunshot wounds every year; and

Whereas, suicide and homicide are the second and third leading causes of death among the 15 to 24 age group, and of these deaths, more than 65 percent are attributed to a firearm; and
 
Whereas, the United States is estimated to have more than 300 million firearms in circulation and 34 percent of schoolaged children live in homes with one or more of those firearms, compelling communities to increase education efforts about responsible gun ownership and the ASK (Asking Saves Kids) movement; and

Whereas, Alexandria City Public Schools believes that the health and safety of our more than 15,000 students and 2,500 employees is our highest priority and that a vibrant,
healthful, safe, enriching and equitable school environment
is vital to ensure every student succeeds; and

Whereas, Alexandria City Public Schools, in alignment with the Health and Wellness
Goal in its ACPS 2020 Strategic Plan, has amended policies and budgets to prioritize improving mental health supports and has executed security steps and training to provide safe and secure school environments; and

Whereas, the prevention of incidents of gun violence cannot be relegated to local school divisions alone and the ongoing political inaction is failing our children; Now, therefore, be it resolved that the Alexandria City School Board calls upon the United States Congress and the Virginia General Assembly to prioritize the protection of students and school division employees by passing legislation that:

1. More effectively regulates access to firearms in the interest of public safety by:
a) Establishing universal background checks to purchase a firearm,
b) Reenacting the federal ban on the sale and possession of military-style assault weapons,
c) Banning large capacity ammunition magazines, and
d) Enactment of gun violence restraining order laws;

2. Increases education efforts regarding gun ownership, signs of potential gun violence and Asking Saves Kids (ASK) efforts;

3. Declares gun violence a public health crisis and removes all barriers to funding of public health research; and

4. Examines, strengthens and funds mental health supports in our communities.

The writer is chair of the Alexandria City School Board.

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