Skip to main content
SXSW Edu

SXSW EDU 2024: Do You Remember Where You Were When … ?

March 20, 2024

SXSW EDU 2024: Do You Remember Where You Were When … ?

Join us in the movement to end gun violence in our schools. It's time to move beyond remembering "where we were" during these tragedies to creating a future where they no longer occur.

Share

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Pinterest
Share On LinkedIn
Email

Have you ever been asked: “Do you remember where you were when you found out about [insert event]?”

For example, do you remember where you were when the Challenger exploded or when two planes flew into the twin towers in New York City on 9/11? How about when you found out that Princess Diana was killed in a car crash? Or, where were you when you found out Osama bin Laden had been assassinated? (I realize some of these questions might show our respective ages.) On the fun side, I remember where I was when my niece told me she was engaged, I recall where I was when I found out I was pregnant with my first child, and I remember where I was when I found out Taylor Swift attended her first Kansas City Chiefs game.

Memories are powerful. Our core memories can recall many details, such as the room we were in, the people we were with, the emotions we felt, and even what we wore that day.

Trigger warning: I’m going to ask another series of questions on school shootings.

Do you remember where you were when you found out that there was a school shooting/massacre at:

  • Columbine High School in Colorado?
  • Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut?
  • Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.?
  • Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas?

And how many of you are quietly raising your hand about another school shooting, or a shooting at a college or university, or another shooting within a community when you think about “Do you remember where you were when you found out?”

At this year's SXSW EDU, I had the profound honor of moderating a panel for AFT's Share My Lesson and Teachers Unify to End Gun Violence titled "Teachers on the Frontline to End Gun Violence." The panel explored the deep-seated issues surrounding school shootings, the toll they take on our educators, and the steps we can take toward a safer future. I asked these same questions of the audience, and hands went up on almost all of them with audience members remembering where they were when.

Panel recording: https://schedule.sxswedu.com/2024/events/PP139431

SXSW Panel

But when I shared a chart that compares all the school shootings in 2024 to previous years and asked if anyone could name them or remember where they were when they heard the news, their hands went down. 

school shootings
Above: The CNN chart I showed at SXSW EDU on March 6. The light purple compares 2008 to 2024 time frame of school shooting numbers from Jan. 1-Feb. 21. On March 7, this article was updated to show that as of March 6, there were 16 school shootings thus far in 2024.

 

This chart revealed a sobering gap in our collective memory and awareness. Even as someone who closely following these tragedies and responding to them with resources to support educators through my work at Share My Lesson, the realization that I couldn't name all 13 schools affected this year alone was a stark reminder of the magnitude of this crisis.

March 18, 2024 Update

When I went to get the URL link to site this story in this blog, I discovered something even more sobering. CNN published updated school shooting numbers with comparison numbers from Jan. 1- March 6. This updated chart was published one day after our SWSW EDU panel. It shows that as of March 6, we have had 16 school shootings this year—the highest number of school shootings in this time frame since 2008.

updated chart
Updated CNN chart, inserted on March 18, 2024.

When I shared this slide during our panel, I had another moment of “I remember where I was when …” that will stick with me. I recall looking at one of my fellow panelists, Kiki Leyba, and seeing him visibly cringe at the slide and nod in agreement with me that I could not name the 13 schools that had school shootings so far in 2024.

Let me tell you why Kiki’s reaction will stick with me by telling you a little about him: Kiki is fun, he’s outgoing, he’s goofy, he’s a teacher of 25 years, and he’s also a gun violence survivor of Columbine High School. If you ask Kiki, “Do you remember when…,” he will say that 25 years ago, he was a first-year teacher at Columbine High School when the deadliest school shooting (at that time) broke out. Five years ago, he was profiled in Time magazine in an article titled, “He Was a New Teacher at Columbine During the Shooting 20 Years Ago. Here’s Why He Never Left.”

Kiki Leyba
Profile of Kiki Leyba in Time magazine.

When Kiki cringed, it made the reality of the 25 years of school shootings all too stark.

When I got into this work, I was never interested in the gun policy part of this work. I was always working to support survivors and families. I always thought things were going to get better. I thought after Sandy Hook that there would be significant change. And then I realized I had to get involved in the thing that I never wanted to be a part of.

Kiki Leyba

Now, let me introduce you to José Vilson, another panelist: He is a public school teacher in New York City, author of This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education, and executive director of EduColor. Two days after the shooting in Parkland, he wrote a piece in the Huffington Post titled “American Schoolteachers Are Heroes. They Shouldn't Have To Be.”

In José article, he wrote:

Teachers, administrators, counselors, social workers and other support staff are serving as stopgaps to safeguard children’s lives. Legislators, meanwhile, offer nothing but thoughts, prayers and misguided policy “solutions.”

Jose Vilson article clip
José Vilson’s article in the Huffington Post.

 When I asked José if his quote from 2018 still rings true today, his answer was an unequivocal “yes.”

For José, changing the school gun violence cycle means ensuring that “every child feels like there are responsible adults who care about them.” During the SXSW Edu panel, he shared:

For every school counselor, guidance counselor, and social worker we have, we should double or triple what we have per school. I imagine a world where, instead of being reactive, we are proactive. The signs were all there for all the children who were enacting gun violence. I imagine a world where we don’t have to sue parents to try to get some justice and fairness. I imagine a world where we have enough guidance counselors who aren’t tired to the bone, and where they have to work with so many kids that they miss signs. There’s a deep relational work that we need to do to move forward with the issue. It’s good for us to be reactive to these things, and it’s quite another to have a full set of schools, 13,000 school districts, where every single one is supported well enough where every child feels like there are responsible adults who care about them.

Our panel also included Sari Beth Rosenberg, who is a public school teacher in New York City, a regular contributor on the PBS NewsHour Classroom Educator series, a regular contributor to Share My Lesson, and very active on social media. More important to this conversation, she co-founded Teachers Unify to End Gun Violence. 

chalkbeat article clip
Sari Beth Rosenberg’s Chalkbeat article after the Buffalo supermarket massacre.

For Sari Beth, the constant attacks on public education contribute to our ability to solve the school gun violence epidemic. During the panel, she shared:

Our classrooms can be places where kids can feel safe to share their feelings. And we can be the teacher they talk to before they get to that terrible place where they pick up a weapon. We can be that person. A lot of times, we’ve been that person without realizing it—creating spaces of empathy for kids. That’s the unseen work of teaching that people who don’t teach don’t realize. If we continue to attack schools. If we continue to attack the books that kids are reading (books that will make that one kid feel seen and safe and not turn to violence because they cannot take it anymore), and if we continue to attack our schools and our teachers, we can never have the safety that we want.

As for me, not only was it an honor to moderate the panel at SXSW EDU, but it’s also a profound honor to be on the Teachers Unify to End Gun Violence board. I’ve known the teachers on the SXSW EDU panel and the co-founders of Teachers Unify to End Gun Violence in different capacities over the years because each of them has a connection to the AFT and to Share My Lesson. When we say Share My Lesson is a community, we mean it.

I have lost count of the number of times we’ve updated our resources on school gun violence prevention and trauma-informed practices.
Kelly Booz

José Vilson was a keynote speaker for our Share My Lesson Virtual Conference back in 2016. Sari Beth Rosenberg grabbed our attention in 2020 during the pandemic as she provided necessary guidance on teaching in the new COVID-19 world. Sarah Lerner (not on the SXSW EDU panel), is a co-founder of Teachers Unify and is a teacher and a survivor of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas massacre. She also gave a keynote presentation for us on Share My Lesson in 2019, a year after the Parkland shooting, and has written blogs on gun violence prevention. Kiki Leyba is someone I just got connected with at SXSW EDU. I feel like I’ve known him for ages, and it turns out that I have known his wife for ages; she is actively involved at the AFT and a big supporter of Share My Lesson (my apologies for not making the last name connection, Kiki!). Finally, Abbey Clements, the executive director of Teachers Unify, is also a teacher and a gun violence survivor from Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. She is the heart and soul of the organization—never giving up and always saying, “Enough is enough!”

Over the 10-plus years I’ve worked at Share My Lesson, we’ve had many moments of “I remember where I was when …” that interrupted an evening, a weekend or a vacation; our incredible team would then come together to assemble resources on school gun violence prevention and trauma-informed resources to support educators. Sometimes, we’ve felt as though we were on an island or in a void trying to wrap our heads around the latest tragedy while finding content that would be helpful for educators. I have lost count of the number of times we’ve updated our resources on school gun violence prevention and trauma-informed practices. That said, we are stronger together when we stand together, and I am grateful that our Share My Lesson educator village continues to grow each day. Seeing our virtual community expand and grow, even in the darkest times, gives me hope.

SXSW Panelists

So, where do we go from here?

  1. If you are a parent/caregiver or educator, a teacher, paraprofessional or specialized instructional support personnel—and you care about schools being safer and ensuring educators have a voice in this process—join Teachers Unify to End Gun Violence.
  2. Support commonsense policies that will make our schools safer, such as red flag laws, safe storage, banning assault weapons and providing free locks for guns. And support fully funding public schools and supporting our educators, just like José and Sari Beth recommend. 
  3. Don’t wait for another “I remember where I was when …” or until you too become a survivor and an advocate like Kiki to get involved. Go back to step 1.

As we navigate the complexities of this issue, it's clear that the path forward requires collective action and compassion. Whether you're an educator, parent or concerned citizen, we all have a role to play in supporting commonsense policies, advocating for the resources our schools desperately need, and ensuring every child feels seen and supported.

Join us in the movement to end gun violence in our schools. It's time to move beyond remembering "where we were" during these tragedies to creating a future where they no longer occur. Together, we can make a difference.

Kelly Booz

Kelly Carmichael Booz oversees the AFT PreK-12 online resources serving 2.1 million educators on the AFT's ShareMyLesson.com, the AFT's E-Learning professional development platform, and the production and dissemination of PreK-12 publication for the AFT's 1.7 million members.

Advertisement

Post a comment

Log in or sign up to post a comment.