The day after first graders, teachers, and administrators were hunted down and killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in nearby Newtown, I had to return to Darien High School and face my kids. (Like most teachers, I refer to my students as my kids. We feel responsible not just for their education, but for their emotional and physical well-being.) I couldn’t tell my kids that they were safe that day, because teenagers know when you are lying to them. At the time, all I could think to do was answer their questions and remind them that we must all reach out to those students who feel isolated, as if that were enough.
Since Sandy Hook, I have continued to face my kids in the aftermath of every mass shooting: Charleston and Washington D.C. and Orlando and Dallas and Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs. I grew more frustrated after each shooting. I was angry at Congress for refusing to change the laws, but more importantly, I felt suffocated by my own inaction. After the latest shooting, this time at Stoneman Douglas, the person I was most angry with was myself. How was it that I had done nothing actionable? How could I continue to watch the nightly news and do nothing? So I decided to give Congress an ultimatum and put my job on the line.