Moved by the March 14 #Enough! National School Walkout to protest governmental inaction on gun violence in schools, University of Virginia Student Council President Sarah Kenny has mobilized more than 80 schools to sign a letter to President Trump demanding change.
The opening reads as follows:
“On behalf of 82 student body presidents representing over one million students across the nation, we write to you to respectfully request immediate and lasting reforms to end gun violence in America.”
Signatories include student leaders from public and private colleges and universities, including Rutgers University, Princeton University, Duke University, Swarthmore College and Virginia Tech, scene of a horrific shooting in 2007 that killed 32 people.
In addition to Trump, the letter was also sent Thursday to Speaker of the House of Representatives Paul Ryan, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.
“Gun violence has been a morbidly distracting reality throughout our academic careers,” the letter continues. “We have had enough. We refuse to allow more violence. This cannot be the norm or the price of being a student in America.”
The outreach effort has been a month in the making. “I wanted to make sure that we didn’t stop the conversation after March 14, when students marched across the country,” Kenny said.
“I had organized a similar effort in November with student body presidents to sign onto a statement against hate on the three-month marker of what had happened in Charlottesville,” Kenny continued. “Seeing how powerful it was for me to speak to student body presidents across the country and how, together, our voices can form a pretty powerful coalition, I wanted to employ that tactic again.”
She got to work by connecting with the National Campus Leadership Council, a non-profit that supports student government leaders, so she could contact as many student body presidents as possible.
Kenny then started pulling together language and materials for the letter, with input from activists from Parkland, Florida, where a gunman slayed 17 people on Valentine’s Day.
She is urging students around the country to send the letter to their governors, representatives on Capitol Hill and student newspapers “to sustain the conversation and exhibit a strong coalition of over one million voices of students from coast-to-coast.”
“I think this trend in organizing with schools across the country is a really important and powerful tool to elevate the student voice,” she said. “I think what Parkland has shown us is that students are really directing the conversation and that young voices are turning the tide.”
She said that, sadly, gun violence in schools has been a part of her life for as long as she can remember.
“I remember the first day that I started to bring my American Girl doll to school with me to play with at recess,” she recalled. “I was 5 years old, growing up in Vienna, Virginia, where the threat of a sniper kept my friends and me from playing outside.
“Gun violence has been part of my school reality since kindergarten. As I prepare to graduate from the University of Virginia, I want to know that I’ve done all I can to give the next little girl a classroom free of fear from the threat of senseless gun violence.”