Constance Dennis stood Saturday afternoon at the entrance to Hamptons Pines Park in North Lauderdale, Fla., expressing hope that the gun-control movement led by high school students in nearby Parkland will lead to change.
“Today’s youth will be voters soon,” said Dennis, who had just finished North Lauderdale’s March for Our Lives, which had started that morning at North Lauderdale City Hall. A kindergarten and performing arts teacher at Rock Island Elementary School in Fort Lauderdale, she said, “A revolution can’t start until you have the strength of the young and the wisdom of the old.”
Dennis is one of millions of people around the country and the world to join the anti-gun movement in the wake of the February 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, where 17 students and teachers were murdered, and another 17 injured. According to the Gun Violence Archive, 25 other school shootings have occurred so far this year in the U.S.
“My job is to teach my students,” said Dennis, who vehemently opposes the arming of teachers. “I need paper, I need notebooks, I need technology. Guns are not on my list.”
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Eva Axel, a native New Yorker in her 80s who lives at Fort Lauderdale’s Shore Club, said she came to the march because she cares about the safety of her grandchildren and great grandchildren. “My wealthy neighbors give to the NRA and believe media is the problem,” she said. “The source of the problem is government and our very stupid president.”
Mike Sargis, North Lauderdale’s assistant city manager, public information officer and director of the Parks and Recreation Department, organized the event.
With Axel yelling “it’s bogus” in the background, he expressed mixed feelings about the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Act signed into law March 9 by Florida’s Republican Gov. Rick Scott.
The law calls for more school resource officers, who would have the power to make arrests and carry weapons on school grounds. The language on funding SRO’s lacks detail: “A school safety officer’s salary may be paid jointly by the district school board and the law enforcement agency, as mutually agreed to.”
Said Sargis: “If they fund the SRO’s…it’s a good thing…if they just say they want them in there and leave it up to the school board, it’s going to be something that in the end is not going to be very effective.” Noting that the law stipulates that arming teachers is also a local school board decision, said, “It becomes hard for a teacher to shoot a student. Teachers have a different mindset.”
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As adults talked about gun laws, Maia Vallejo, a 10-year-old student at Challenger Elementary School in Tamarac, talked about the March 15 lock down at Millennium Middle School next door, where authorities found an air rifle but not the owner. She didn’t want to go to school the next day. “It makes me scared,” she said. “When it happens, it’s hard to concentrate.”
Maia is suffering from anxiety, said her mother, Frances Marrero, who is making serious life changes to keep her daughter safe. “I’m going to home-school her next year,” she said. “I’m a nurse and work at night. I can be at home during the day.”
Parkland March Photo Montage. Image Credits: Lynnel Fletcher
Lynnel Fletcher and her mother, Beverly, participated in Parkland’s march. Beverly walked because she believes people as young as 18 should not be able to buy guns, nor should teachers be armed with them. “I want to participate in things that matter,” she said. Lynnel is marching for her nieces and nephews and her unborn children. Thank you, Lynnel, for these images!