Tuesday, less than a week after National School Walkout Day, 10 passionate high school students from DSST: Cole, DSST: College View, East, George Washington and South came together to move the conversation on school safety further toward legislative action. The students, who are all active members of YAALL (Young African American and Latinx Leaders) or the SBOE (Student Board of Education), visited the state capitol to open a dialogue with policymakers about school safety and possible paths toward gun violence prevention.
The students, accompanied by Superintendent Tom Boasberg, Mark Ferrandino, DPS’ chief financial officer and the former Colorado Speaker of the House, and Board of Education member Lisa Flores, visited with lobbyists from Everytown USA – the national movement to end gun violence – as well as several state representatives throughout the day.
“After the Aurora shooting in 2013, there was legislation to limit magazine size and background checks for private sales of guns,” said Marcus Phinpraphat, a student at DSST: College View. “What else can we do? We’re talking about automatic weapons. Policies that make those dangerous guns less accessible.”
“The other side disagrees because they think we are trying to take away their rights,” answered Rep. James Coleman. “Some people are upset at the shootings, but they’re more concerned with their Second Amendment rights than safety. It’s going to take real people coming to the capitol in a meaningful way. Real grassroots work. People make policy based on elections.”
Students asked what they could do to help get legislation passed and how they can improve mental health services in schools so all students have someone they can talk to about issues affecting them. Representatives shared their views on gun-violence prevention, what bills are currently being discussed and how much of an impact students can and have had on the gun-violence prevention conversation.
“This is a long-term movement. You cannot think short term,” said Rep. Paul Rosenthal, a former teacher. “How much am I willing to spend of my time and my effort to make sure this happens? It’s very important to stay in contact with us. Email us. Talk to us. Don’t be discouraged. Stick with it and stick with us.”