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In the wake of yet another tragic school shooting, teachers have started an eye-opening movement on social media to let the world know what preventative measures really need to be taken seriously to protect students.
In response to the recent mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, President Trump suggested that some teachers receive gun training so they can be armed in their classrooms. But rather than adding more guns to educational environments, teachers are using the hashtag #ArmMeWith to share far more peaceful resources they wish to be armed with, such as school supplies, mental health resources and funding, impactful changes in curriculum, and stronger gun control legislation.
The movement was started by two educators: Brittany Wheaton, a teacher in Utah, and Olivia Bertels from Kansas. Both 27-year-olds met through Instagram, according to Buzzfeed, and eagerly asked the online teacher community to share their personal thoughts on how to ensure the safety and proper education of students.
Teachers across the U.S. have been using the hashtag.
One high school English teacher requested a “curriculum that tells the truth, the ability to teach the truth, a society that believes the truth, and political leaders who make laws based on the truth.”
Others asked to be armed with more on-site mental health professionals, like school counselors and social workers, as well as self-care classes, bullet-proof glass, an enhanced library, and a range of other resources that focus on the physical, mental, and emotional care of students and faculty members.
This is a movement that I can 100% get on board with. If you’ve heard me talk about my class size the last couple years, you will not be surprised that this is one of my hot button issues. In the mind of children, negative attention is still attention, and I believe that as we raise class sizes, overload teachers, and cut support, we will continue to see major behavioral, social, and emotional issues rise to unparalleled levels. I think that reaching out to educators about ways that we can be PROactive, not reactive, in the education world to reduce violence of any kind is absolutely one of the best places to start making a change! . . . . . #ArmMeWith #RealTalk #IssuesInEducation #iTeach2nd #iTeach3rd #TeacherLife #TeachersOfInstagram #TeacherCommunity #TargetTeachers
A post shared by Kelly Bates (@buildingbrilliance) on Feb 20, 2018 at 5:58pm PST
It isn’t enough to teach our children how to read. They need to learn how to deal with the complex emotions facing them + have access to mental health services. We need to remove the stigma – not just for our students/their families, but ourselves too. #ArmMeWith this, not a gun. pic.twitter.com/YEEN8htZPW
— Sarah Plum(itallo) (@sarahplumitallo) February 21, 2018
“Since teachers are the individuals in the classroom when it happens, I like to think we know what’s best for our students,” Wheaton told Buzzfeed. “If you’re an educator, you know that [more guns] is not a solution to stopping the violence that’s happening in our schools.”
For those looking to participate in the movement, Wheaton has shared a blank #ArmMeWith template that can be downloaded and filled out.
This is what collective mobilization looks like.
High school students across the country walked out of school on Wednesday to protest inaction from politicians on gun control policy. The protests are a direct response to the deadly high school shooting in Parkland, Florida last week that took 17 lives.
A striking way to see the spread of this movement — from both a macro, and micro perspective — has emerged on Snap Maps.
By mid-Wednesday afternoon, Snapchat’s map surfaced multiple featured and trending stories of walk outs from California to Texas, Florida to D.C., and more states and schools across the country.
According to The Hill, word of the protests spread through social media.
In addition to showing us the scope of the political action, Snap Maps provided access to affecting scenes from inside the protests themselves. This is in stark contrast to the previous role the Snap Maps and featured story served: showing viewers a chilling view inside the shooting itself.
Some survivors from last week’s shooting spent Wednesday in a “listening session” about mass shootings with President Trump, Vice President Pence, and other members of the administration. Protests from the Parkland high school students went viral, as student Emma Gonzalez led a chant “calling BS” on excuses for inaction on gun control. The students’ calls for action have been subsequently ridiculed and belittled in the conservative commentators on the basis of the age of the activists. There are more marches and walk-outs planned in the coming months to demand action from lawmakers.
Clearly, the message is catching on.
On Wednesday afternoon, some of the terrified teenagers of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, used social media to bear witness to the recurring tragedy of our time: a mass shooting.
These children, who’ve grown up with smartphones at the ready, did what comes naturally to them and shared their experiences on platforms like Twitter and Snapchat. The images, sounds, and comments they transmitted to their friends and family quickly went viral, providing the world horrifying glimpses of what it’s like to hear a gunman roam the halls of your school.
By documenting their experiences, victims could give loved ones instant updates, receive prayers and sympathy in return, and perhaps even feel some sense of control. They also created a public record that cannot be ignored or sanitized, forcing Americans to again reckon with the political numbness to mass shootings.
Yet as their messages spread far and wide, it made students vulnerable to the harsh judgment of strangers, and increased the chances that social media bystanders would in turn be traumatized by the graphic content.
2018 is watching children live tweet mass shootings while other kids who’ve survived school shootings talk them through it
— Muna Mire (@Muna_Mire) February 14, 2018
Rob Coad, a school psychologist in Los Angeles County and member of the National Association of School Psychologists’ school safety crisis response committee, says mental health professionals like him are deeply concerned about the intensity of the images shooting victims witnessed – and the impact those scenes are having on children across the country today.
Coad, who has counseled students who’ve experienced gun violence at school, says that young people frequently talk about how what they witnessed was different than what movies and television portray.
“They’ll say, ‘I wasn’t prepared for the sounds people made. I wasn’t prepared for the smells. I wasn’t prepared for the things my eyes saw,'” explains Coad. “That was once reserved for people closest to the events. Now some of the filming going on has brought those intense moments into people’s minds and hearts.”
“Some of the filming going on has brought those intense moments into people’s minds and hearts.”
Coad says it’s very difficult for an adolescent’s brain to process what they’re seeing during a mass shooting, regardless of whether it’s first or secondhand imagery.
Snapchat videos and tweets sent from students at the school included video of rapid gunfire and screaming. Children described the fear and horror of watching a gunman kill a friend or classmate. A Snapchat feature even published a collection of firsthand posts from the shooting as a “featured” story, where it could be easily found and watched by users.
Aidan Minoff, a 14-year-old freshman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, told CNN Wednesday evening that he tweeted while hiding under a desk to alert the public.
“I was nervous and I just wanted it (the shooting) to be known, it was out there,” he said. “And I started getting notifications on my phone that people were engaging with the tweet and people really found it useful information.”
Another student tweeted, in response to criticism about using social media to document the shooting, that his classmates took video hoping to provide the police evidence and to educate the public and “help make sure this will not happen again.”
Receiving criticism from strangers online, however, is something that Coad says victims shouldn’t have to experience, and it may outweigh the positive effects of sympathetic messages.
Yet, social media has also given survivors a platform to demand change from politicians and the public. Multiple students have spoken unapologetically about their experiences, calling out, in particular, the conservative commentator Tomi Lahren for criticizing efforts to discuss gun control and saying “this isn’t about a gun.”
Coad believes it’s key for survivors to have a voice in the online debate about mass shootings.
“This is an unimaginable time in a powerless position and to be able to come out … and shift from victim to survivor advocating for what they think is right is so important,” he says.
Bystanders, however, have a less empowering experience when they encounter survivors’ chilling posts from the scene. Coad speaks to students after a shooting about removing or limiting access to social media posts that include graphic firsthand details in order to avoid traumatizing others.
Coad also points out that teenagers’ younger siblings tend to follow them on social media and read what they’ve shared. It’s entirely feasible that video from a shooting could pop up in a fifth grader’s social media feed, which is why Coad advocates for trying to protect young, vulnerable, and already traumatized youth from seeing graphic posts.
When the suggestion is framed around protecting others from harm, Coad says that students understand and respect that.
“The mind can become overwhelmed and confused.”
Limiting other people’s exposure at a certain point is particularly important because it’s hard to identify those who’ve experienced vicarious trauma. They may have seen social media posts about an incident alone in their bedroom, in the hallway of their school, or while riding in the backseat of a parent’s car – all while wearing headphones that isolate them from the outside world.
“The mind can become overwhelmed and confused,” he says, adding that adults have a responsibility to “keep kids away from getting caught in that loop where they continue to watch it and transmit it and comment on it.”
When a child seems distant and loses the ability to manage daily life, it could be a sign that they’re suffering from the prolonged effects of trauma. Coad urges those students to reach out for help and talk to a trusted adult about what they’re experiencing. While some children and adolescents might want to keep their turmoil private, those unshared emotions can turn into an overwhelming secret.
“We [can] fully acknowledge what has happened and what they’ve been through, but also start talking about not allowing themselves to lose balance,” he says. “We don’t want them stuck and lost in that moment, and not able to move forward.”
If you want to talk to someone or are experiencing suicidal thoughts, text the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Here is a list of international resources.
Facebook is amping up its Community Help efforts, now enabling companies like Lyft, Chase, International Medical Corps and Save the Children to easily provide information and services, like food, transportation and shelter, to people in crisis.
“Our priority is to build tools that help keep people safe and provide them with ways to get the help they need to recover and rebuild after a crisis,” Facebook Social Good Product Lead Asha Sharma said in a blog post.
In partnering with Lyft and other companies, people experiencing a crisis will be able to see if there are options for free Lyft rides or supplies via Direct Relief. The full roster of organizations currently on board also includes Chase, Feeding America, International Medical Corps, The California Department of Forestry and Fire, and Save the Children. In the “coming weeks,” Facebook says it will make the ability to post to Community Help available for other companies.
“At Lyft, we’ve long been committed to making safe and reliable transportation more accessible,” Lyft Head of Social Impact Mike Masserman said in a statement. “Through Facebook’s Community Help, we can provide relief rides directly to those in need during a crisis and help communities recover.”
Facebook first launched Community Help last February to help everyday people assist in the aftermath of natural disasters and building fires — two types of crises in which Safety Check would likely be activated.
Safety Check, which first launched in 2014, is designed to let people quickly and easily notify their friends and family that they’re okay after crises in their respective areas. Since launching Community Help as part of Safety Check, Facebook says people have posted, commented or messaged over 750,000 times about 500 different crises.
Featured Image: Bloomberg / Contributor/Getty Images