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As an educator working in a first grade classroom, I watched in horror on December 14, 2012, as the images of Sandy Hook flashed across my phone, my television screen, my Facebook and Twitter feeds. As someone who grew up in Newtown, I watched in shock, and then enormous sadness, as I saw the images of my beautiful town, my schools, and my church.

My mother, Peggy Gloria, is a retired paraeducator from the Newtown school system. We’ve had many tearful conversations since December 14th. It was my mother who asked me the question, “When will we stop putting politics before the safety of children?”. I told her, now, now is the time to do something.

My school district had a lock down drill shortly after December 14th. As I stood in my first grade classroom with my colleague during the drill, I remember the two of us talking about how we thought we could fit all 17 of our students in the classroom closet if we needed to. Then we stopped-why are we having conversations about hiding children in closets? We should be having conversations about how we can provide safe and nurturing environments for all children to learn.

I’ve talked about the need to provide better mental health resources for school age children to everyone I knew. The fact that school districts, my own included, were even discussing cutting school guidance counselor positions was maddening to me. We need more guidance counselors, not fewer. As a member of my District Attorney’s office Citizen Advisory Board, I brought up mental health resources as a theme for our second Safe School Summit, planned for November 20, 2013. I’ve used my position on the Massachusetts Teachers Association Board of Directors, as well as my contacts within the National Education Association to create a partnership between the MTA and the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office. The Safe School Summit will bring together Education Support Professionals-paraeducators, bus drivers, school secretaries, cafeteria workers, guidance counselors, classroom teachers, school committee members, staff from the District Attorney’s office, and experts in the field of mental health.

Since December 14th I’ve cried many times. It is still difficult for me to talk about my town, Newtown, without getting choked up. I cry every Friday when I sign onto the Friday Facebook Dance Party in honor of Sandy Hook Elementary Principal Dawn Hochsprung. I cry, but I am hopeful. Hopeful that people will not forget what happened in Newtown. Hopeful that people will realize that we don’t need to arm our schools with guns, we need to arm our schools with better mental health resources. Hopeful that people will realize that change can happen.

Those that know me know that I don’t give up easily. I promised my mom I would do whatever I could, that I wouldn’t stop until I made a difference. Don’t worry mom- I haven’t stopped.

 

This post is part of the project, "Sorrow, Anger, ACTION! - A Gathering of Voices Against Gun Violence," organized by MomsRising, PICO Network, UltraViolet, Children's Defense Fund and the National Network to End Domestic Violence.


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