No Sustainability without Safety: Reflections and resources for educators and families grappling with gun violence - Children's Environmental Literacy Foundation

No Sustainability without Safety: Reflections and resources for educators and families grappling with gun violence

Tara Stafford Ocansey, Executive Director

As an organization dedicated to providing professional learning for educators, we often revisit the grounding question, “What is the purpose of education? While there are many ways to answer this question, we are convinced that no educational purpose can be served by continually, and increasingly, exposing our children to trauma, violence, and death.

In our work, we often talk about the links between sustainability and public health. The gun violence that has shattered the lives of all who loved the 19 children and two educators whose lives were stolen in Uvalde is a public health crisis that needs to be recognized and addressed as such. The gun violence and racist hatred that took the lives of ten Black Americans in Buffalo are public health crises that need to be recognized and addressed as such. This means funding the CDC and NIH for additional research into the root causes and effects of gun violence, and urgently finding legislative solutions that promote gun safety and address those root causes.

In our efforts to facilitate Education for Sustainability, we partner with teachers and schools who are empowering learners as agents of change through inquiry into the issues they care about and development of data-driven solutions. As we encourage young people to engage in inquiry and listen to the data, what message do we send them when our decision-makers effectively ignore the data that shows 91% of firearm deaths among children aged 0-14 in nearly two dozen populous, high-income countries occur in the United States? What signal do we send to young people when our leaders fail to heed the call for widely favored gun safety solutions, such as universal background checks, consistently supported by at least 80% of voters?

In the words of educator and organizer Mariame Kaba, “Hope is a discipline.” Hope requires action. A discipline of hope is what moves us to keep pushing forward when our hearts are broken. As educators, parents, family members, friends, and neighbors, our hearts ache in solidarity with the families impacted by gun violence in Uvalde, Buffalo, and the more than 200 American communities impacted by mass shootings so far in 2022. And so as a balm for our shared pain, we offer this collection of resources to support our community in taking steps toward greater understanding, healing, and advocacy for solutions to help us address this destructive public health crisis. 

Support impacted families and communities

Donate to Uvalde, Texas Elementary School Shooting Relief

Donate to Buffalo Mass Shooting Fundraisers

Resources for talking to children about difficult news & gun violence

Fred Rogers Institute: Talking with children about difficult news

American Psychological Association, with age specific guidance: Helping your children manage distress in the aftermath of a shooting 

PBS: Helping Children with Tragic Events in the News

Sharon Says So Podcast: How to Teach Our Children Emotional Resilience with Dr. Becky Kennedy

National Association of School Psychologists: Talking to Children about Violence

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network: Talking to Children about the Shooting

Sesame Street Resources 

Child Mind Institute: How to Talk to Kids About School Shootings

Books to help children cope with difficult news

Something Bad Happened: A Kid’s Guide to Coping With Events in the News, by Dawn Huebner (for ages ~5-10) 

What to Do When the News Scares You: A Kid’s Guide to Understanding Current Events, by Jaqueline B. Toner, PhD (for ages ~8-12)

When the World Feels Like a Scary Place: Essential Conversations for Anxious Parents and Worried Kids by Abigail Gewirtz, PhD

Resources for understanding gun violence as a public health crisis

American Public Health Association: Gun Violence is a Public Health Crisis

John Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions: Public Health Approach to Gun Violence Prevention

In Solidarity,

Tara Stafford Ocansey, Executive Director

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