Politics, News

I am from Newtown, CT, and this is why I disapprove of Betsy DeVos

I know exactly why guns should not be allowed in schools, but with DeVos at the head of the Department of Education, I fear for our country's schoolchildren.

I am from Newtown, Connecticut. We’re a small town, but you may know us as the place of residence for Suzanne Collins, author of “The Hunger Games,” or for Joanna Cole, one of the authors of “The Magic School Bus” series.

But most people know us because of the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting that happened on December 14, 2012.

On the day of this horrible shooting, I was a junior at Newtown High School, which is maybe a mile away from where Sandy Hook School used to be. I sat in a lockdown in the corner of my history classroom for maybe four hours with no understanding of what was going on.  On our phones, we learned about a shooting, but we couldn’t hear anything. Don’t shootings usually happen in high schools?

When they let us out of lockdown, the administration just sent us to our last class of the day. For me, that was math. I was supposed to have a test, but instead we sat on desks while our teacher streamed the news on the projector. I saw news crews out the window. There were 27 people dead:  20 children, six teachers, and the perpetrator’s mother.

Of those 20 children was a child named James Mattioli, who I babysat over the summer. I helped him pack his backpack for his first day of second grade. I tried to teach him how to sound out words. He liked football and had a mohawk.

For weeks, my small Connecticut town was swarmed with news cameras. They tried to come onto my high school’s campus, and they videotaped us lighting candles. Celebrities came to town. Athletes wore green ribbons on their helmets.

Nothing changed. Those kids are still dead. Those kids do not get to have their first kiss, go to the prom, graduate high school, discover their passion in life.

I should not have had to attend James’ funeral. But at least, under Obama, I felt a bit better about gun safety in this country. I had hope that we could enact common sense laws that would at least protect our most vulnerable and defenseless citizens: children.

Now, with DeVos’ confirmation, I am more terrified than ever.

This is probably one of the stupidest things the Trump administration has pushed through. Not only is DeVos shamefully unqualified to be in charge of anything related to public education, she exhibits incredible ignorance about the most basic regulations that make our schools safe. DeVos could not even answer Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy when he asked her about guns in schools; instead, she chose to joke about possible grizzly bear attacks instead of respecting the gravity of the question.

She could not decisively say if guns belong in schools, or if she would keep gun-free school zones.

The gut-wrenching disgust I felt in my chest when she responded with such carelessness, such blatant disregard, was overwhelming. How could she speak like this to the representative of Connecticut? The fact that more children’s lives could be put at risk with this woman is deplorable, and I am proud of the way Senator Murphy responded. I know that guns should not be in schools. I know this because my town lived through it, and nobody else should have to live through it again.

From 2013-2015 there have been 84 mass shootings in k-12 schools and 76 at colleges and universities.  When there is such a serious need for gun safety in schools, we cannot afford to have a Secretary of Education that knows nothing about the effect of guns in schools, let alone anything about education or specifically government’s role in education. DeVos was a terrible choice, but I commend the Democrats who attempted to filibuster her election.

We need to work to avoid more massacres like Sandy Hook, for the memory of the innocents who died that day.