Teachers Debate Gun Violence at 7th Global Education & Skills Forum

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US teachers call for compassion and collaboration in dealing with violence in schools

A group of teachers from the United States discussed the topic of gun crime at the Global Education & Skills Forum (GESF 2019), a Varkey Foundation initiative, taking place at The Atlantis, The Palm, Dubai, UAE.

Insights were shared on the work they do to tackle the issue, as well as their thoughts on controversial calls from politicians to arm teachers in the classroom and issues around mental health support for both children and teachers. All three panelists – Brian Copes, Nadia Lopez and Mark Vondracek – were previously shortlisted for the Global Teacher Prize awarded in previous years at GESF.

Questions from the floor covered topics such as the Columbine High School Massacre, the US Constitution in regards gun ownership, the introduction of new policies, mental health care and classroom awareness in terms of the behaviour teachers should look out for in the lead up to potentially violent crimes in the classroom.

Teacher Brian Copes, founding member of the National Coalition of Sage Schools, said:

 “Collectively, we are not only concerned with solving the gun crime problem, but also, looking at the fundamental question as to why these crimes are continuing to happen. I won’t pretend to be an expert on the topic, but I also don’t want to sit back and wait for someone else to do something about the problem. In the US last year, we averaged one school shooting per week, and they are happening everywhere both countryside and city – this is real tragedy.

“We’re not going to solve the problem overnight but at least we can collaborate – one such example being the establishment of the National Coalition of Safe Schools. Prevalence in the US is most definitely driven by our constitution and our citizens’ right to own arms.  But on top of this, the situation is becoming more complex globally in part due to the growing popularity of violent video games.”

Nadia Lopez, school principal and founding member of the National Coalition of Safe Schools, added:

“It’s such a difficult subject especially when we have witnessed the impact of such crimes on children. But it’s not just the children who suffer from crimes of violence and the mental health impact, it’s the teachers and support staff too that need help. In the aftermath, the quality of mental health care is critical in terms of the ability of healthcare professionals who are trained to handle the scope of what has happened.

“Unfortunately, we come from a violent society, we use weapons of mass destruction to solve world problems – what we really need is a more compassionate approach.”

GESF 2019 this year was attended by five former Presidents and Prime Ministers and 40 Education Ministers. World leaders were joined by a new generation of change-makers, including grassroots activists, philanthropists, tech developers and many more, that are shaping the world with new voices, new ideas and new technologies.

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