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What actions can educators take in the wake of the tragic shooting in Buffalo?

May 23, 2022

7 Action Steps Educators Can Take in Response to the Buffalo Tragedy

Consider these seven action steps you can take in response to the tragic shooting that occured in Buffalo, New York.

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1. Remember the victims and survivors. They were loved and loved others back. When the news trucks leave, the grief lingers for the families, friends and colleagues of the people who were killed and injured in the Buffalo shooting. This is why we must not forget the magnitude of this tragedy. Read their stories and say their names: Roberta A. Drury, Margus D. Morrison, Andre Mackniel, Aaron Salter, Geraldine Talley, Celestine Chaney, Heyward Patterson, Katherine Massey, Pearl Young, Ruth Whitfield, Zaire Goodman (treated and released from hospital), Jennifer Warrington (treated and released from hospital) and Christopher Braden (sustained non-life-threatening injuries). 

2. Acknowledge systemic racism and how it impacts communities and families through generations of poverty, inequity and limited resources. This Capital B piece examines the generations of neglect in East Buffalo: “Racism has been systemically crippling Black Buffalonians for generations in the form of limited food options, lead poisoning, discriminatory loan practices and mass incarceration.” Empathy and understanding are the backbones of compassionate educators.

3. Support, share and amplify organizations supporting the East Buffalo community. The ripple effects of a tragedy of this magnitude have wide-ranging effects on the community and the schools. Donating to these groups will help ensure funds go directly to those impacted. Consider starting a fundraiser or drive to support the people on the ground who are providing resources in Buffalo (this list was compiled and personally vetted by the Community Justice Action Fund’s executive director, Greg Jackson).

Organizations Supporting the East Buffalo Community

Support Victim and Survivor Services 

  • National Compassion Fund’s Buffalo 5/14 Survivors Fund—provides financial assistance to the survivors of the deceased and those directly affected by the tragedy.
  • Buffalo NAACP Help Buffalo Heal Fund—supports the surrounding community organizations through events, group donations, and supporting those directly impacted beyond the families.

Support Food Access

Support Grief Counseling and Trauma Services

Support Programs for Youth Impacted or at Risk to Violence 

Support Community Violence Intervention and Advocacy Organizations

4. Teach with an anti-racist lens, whatever and wherever you teach, both subtly and explicitly. Choose read-alouds with diverse characters, and make sure your classroom posters are representative and inclusive. Speak the truth about current events, including the tragedy in Buffalo, because doing so could be the remedy to extremist ideologies. Providing students with historical context about racism coupled with media literacy skills could help prevent kids from being radicalized online. However, gag orders imposed on teachers in some states make these important lessons and conversations challenging, if not impossible— “Teachers and education experts say these already difficult classroom conversations are being complicated or suppressed under a wave of state laws and school board policies that restrict the ways educators discuss racism” via Mike Hixenbaugh’s article. We’re losing teachers as a result of more than two years of teaching in a pandemic, but we’re also losing teachers because they cannot speak the truth and refuse to acknowledge “both sides” racism. Therefore, it is more important than ever that educators who are protected speak up for those who are not in school board meetings, to their legislators and through social media. There are online forums and discussions to help empower teachers to speak the truth for the sake of building a less racist, extremist future.

5. Read banned books and make them available to your students, if possible. Books are a refuge to many kids, and they can save lives. The pandemic has led to an increase in children’s mental health challenges—from isolation to stress, anxiety, health crises, fear and more. Kids are struggling. And suicide in children and teens is on the rise and “for young people between the ages of 5 and 12, the suicide rate for Black children is nearly double that of white children” via article from Jonathan Chang and Meghna Chakrabarti. Books can be the distraction and the savior; books can affirm and challenge. Removing impactful books from libraries and prohibiting teachers from assigning and offering them to students is criminal and dangerous; it gives white supremacy the oxygen to grow.

6. Talk explicitly about racism and extremism with friends, family and colleagues, even when it’s uncomfortable. According to this article from the Pew Research Center, “Elementary and secondary public school teachers in the United States are considerably less racially and ethnically diverse as a group than their students—and while the share of Black, Hispanic and Asian American teachers has increased in recent decades, it has not kept pace with the rapid growth in the racial and ethnic diversity of their students, according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics.” Lives and futures are at stake. The most recent data, from this source, shows that 79 percent of teachers are white. It is incumbent upon white teachers to reject silence, confront their own position of privilege, and bring this vital conversation into the forefront.

7. Support local and federal gun safety laws and the people running for office who will support and pass lifesaving bills. The midterm elections are right around the corner, so check your voter registration status and consider getting involved with campaigns and voter registration drives. Firearms overtook auto accidents as the leading cause of death for children. Easy access to lethal weapons from online sources, private sellers and 3-D printing of so-called ghost guns are devastating families and communities. Sarah Lerner, Sari Beth Rosenberg and I founded Teachers Unify to End Gun Violence after the Oxford High School tragedy in Oakland County, Mich., on Nov. 30, 2021, in which four students were killed and seven other people were injured. Our mission is to empower teachers, professors, administrators, school nurses and staff, active or retired, to stand up and speak out about how gun violence impacts schools, students, families and communities. We support school communities and employees directly impacted by gun violence and those who fear it will happen to them. We refuse to allow unintentional shootings, school shootings, shootings by gun suicide, shootings by domestic violence, and shootings by hate to be normalized. Join us by completing this survey.

abbey clements

About the Author

Abbey Clements is a survivor teacher of the Sandy Hook School tragedy in 2012, and an elementary educator for 30 years. She has been a gun violence prevention activist, wearing many hats over the last near-decade, including as a Moms Demand Action volunteer leader (Deputy CT Chapter Leader, Survivor Fellow, National Training Team  Lead, to name a few) and as a strategic consultant on gun violence issues for the AFT. She has been featured in various publications and documentaries, including Newtown, If I Don’t Make It, I Love You, Bullets Into Bells, Marie ClaireAFT VoicesUSA Today, among others.

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We are three teachers organizing fellow educators & school staff, both active & retired, across the country to unify & work to end gun violence. One of our main goals is to elevate voices & share stories. We want to hear from you! Please click the link below to fill out our survey

Teachers Unify uplifts narratives from everyone who works or who has worked in schools and universities, from paraeducators to counselors, principals, school nurses and others.

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