Education and child policy experts said finding a solution to increasing gun violence will require more than just legislative changes during a panel at the Harvard Graduate School of Education Wednesday.
Marian Wright Edelman, founder of the child advocacy group Children’s Defense Fund, called shootings a “broader cultural issue” that deserves a “thoughtful debate,” pointing out that more schoolchildren than police officers are killed by guns every year.
The panel, moderated by Education School Dean Kathleen McCartney, addressed cultural causes behind tragedies like the recent shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, as well as possible preventative measures for the future.
John Merrow, one of three panelists and an education correspondent for PBS, pointed out that at many schools, children are bombarded with so much information that they do not know how to take a critical eye when exposed to unrealistic images of violence.
Throughout the event, the speakers emphasized that the shooting at Sandy Hook was far from an isolated incident.
“This is an all-American crisis,” said Edelman, adding that gun violence is a problem for people from all races, locations, and classes.
Elaine Zimmerman, executive director of the policy group Connecticut Commission on Children, said that in order to limit gun violence, lawmakers should focus on limiting access to guns, increasing school safety, and improving mental health resources.
Zimmerman spoke of her experiences working with Sandy Hook Elementary School students, recounting her interaction with one first-grader, who told her there was “nothing you can say and nothing you can do to convince me it will not happen again.”
“It’s our job to prove him wrong,” she said.
She criticized the “shame attached to mental health problems” and said teachers should be trained to recognize mental health issues in their classrooms.
Edelman, who was recognized at the panel with an award for her work in education activism, said she thinks the United States should invest in the future of its children by enacting the necessary legislation and changing culturally to prevent gun violence.
Education School alumnus Elisabeth A. Dorsey, who attended the panel, said she thought conversations like Wednesday’s are important as Sandy Hook becomes more of a distant memory.
Even if the media begins to devote less of its coverage to gun violence, she said, “It doesn’t mean that it has ceased to be an issue.”