Students have their say on school shootings

Students met with Bishop Dennis Sullivan March 1 to discuss gun violence in schools. They represented the nine Catholic secondary schools in the Diocese of Camden. They were asked in advance to begin the meeting with a brief reflection following the Parkland shooting. Following are excerpts from their opening statements.
Photo by Mike Walsh

After the tragic event that occurred in Parkland Florida, every school in the nation was affected, not just the ones in that specific area.

“We decided to poll our students with a survey with the first question “Do you feel safe in school?” We were shocked to discover that 12 percent of the students replied ‘no.’ My fellow student leaders, that percentage should be zero.” Wildwood Catholic, Wildwood

“As Catholics, we hold that the right to life is the fundamental right. …we also acknowledge and advocate legitimate defense. … It is our obligation as Catholics to work for the common good.” Bishop Eustace, Pennsauken

“We must treat everyone with the same love and respect because we are all created in the same image and likeness as God. … Feeling loved can affect anyone’s life in a positive way and, as Catholics, we possess a moral responsibility to look after each other. … One of the leading causes for [the Parkland] tragedy was the result of bullying and the shooter felt as if violence was the only solution.” Camden Catholic, Cherry Hill

“There must be a better way to reduce bullying in our school community. We as a student council want to better promote the dignity of the person. … We would like to use a faith filled demonstration as an instrument of inspiring change in both the hearts of those who intend to harm others and the hearts of our lawmakers, who have the ability to make our country safer.” Paul VI, Haddonfield

“Limiting the purchase of firearms is only half of the battle. … If mental health institutions are underfunded in America, then perhaps it would be a good idea to start school based programs that counsel kids in need of help.” Gloucester Catholic, Gloucester City

“Our nation’s school shootings … threaten our sense of security and safety. For us, it feels as if society has normalized the issue, giving us little confidence that changes will ever occur. … Now more than ever, we need to value and be grateful for life.” Our Lady of Mercy, Newfield

“Students should never be worried for their safety when their focus should be on their studies. … We need to make a call for change because remembering is not enough!” Holy Spirit, Absecon

“We hope that public officials and law enforcement in our communities do their utmost best to guarantee our safety. … As a Catholic school we are very proud of our strong community of students and faculty and we hope to organize a march of awareness so that students can safely conduct a walkout.” Saint Joseph, Hammonton

[We plan] to respond to the tragedy of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in a way that promotes peace and unification, as opposed to anger and separation. … The politicization of the event has taken away from honoring the victims and has divided people. … The best way to make change is through a respectful, open dialogue.” Saint Augustine, Richland