How to start organizing with your local school board.
1) Build a diverse coalition of students, parents, teachers, and experts.
Power is in numbers! By including the voices of educators, parents, and students, alike, the school board must consider the perspective of different constituencies in schools. Team ENOUGH Tampa brought four students and one adult to the table. Reach out to your local community to find a diverse set of people with different backgrounds to provide statements.
2) Identify and reach out to a school board member to help facilitate your efforts.
Team ENOUGH Tampa found making phone calls to board members to be most effective, but in person meetings are also a great way to get to know your school board members. Identify your strongest allies on your local school board and set up a conversation with him/her to discuss introducing a resolution on arming teachers. Bring data and information from this toolkit to share. Include talking points important to your community, newspaper articles, and any data you think will be helpful. Ask the board member(s) to take the lead in garnering the support of other board members. Tampa’s school board “ally” was helpful in getting their resolution to the school district’s attorney for review before the meeting took place. This helped to ensure that there were no legal issues preventing the school board from signing off on the resolution.
“I was the first person from our group to address the school board, so I was initially nervous about exactly where to go, how to adjust the mic, when to talk, etc. Nerves aside, starting off made me even more focused on my statement and making sure I could get the message across effectively that we did not want our teachers to be armed. Luckily, our school board has previously been supportive, but regardless of the school board’s views, it was important to have a strong opening statement delivered with confidence.”
3) What happens if you are having a hard time finding an ally on the school board?
If you are unable to find a school board member who is willing to lead the effort to get a resolution against arming teachers passed, find out why! Could the language of the resolution be improved? Is he/she afraid of taking the lead on the issue? Do they feel like they have enough local support? If not, think about putting together a public education event or local town hall meeting. But make sure not to give up, you can always 1) try a different member of the board 2) plan actions to target a specific member 3) discuss changes to the resolution language that could get some school board members on board.
Learn the school board requirements.
For example, Team ENOUGH Tampa learned that the Hillsborough County school board required a week's notice to schedule an actual signing of a resolution. Your school board member “ally” can help get you on the agenda.
4) Write the school board resolution.
It’s important to keep the resolution as simple and succinct as possible. It’s best to describe the act you want the school board to take (ie, rejecting the arming of teachers within your county).
Sample School Board Resolution
WHEREAS the Florida legislature has recommended arming public school teachers throughout the state of Florida to help ensure the safety of the children who attend said public schools.
RESOLVED that we, members of the school board of ___________ County, Florida, do hereby reject any and all proposals to arm the teachers employed by the School District of ___________.
Signed, on this _____ day of __________, YEAR,
School Board Signers
5) Plan your testimony.
Allot ample time to write clear, thorough statements to present to the school board. Talk over the written statements to make sure your group is consistent and communicating the same message. Team ENOUGH Tampa found that the most powerful statements included personal feelings (and that of friends) and real stories. It’s also useful to include examples of how guns in schools present more danger than safety, especially if you cite local stories.
Incidences of mishandled guns in schools
Giffords - Every Incident of Mishandled Guns in Schools
Research on gun violence and the danger of arming teachers
Brady - Resources
Team ENOUGH - Gun Violence Statistics
University of Virginia - At the Intersection of Teachers, Stress and Guns
Arming teachers and race
The Washington Post - Arming teachers would put black and Latino kids in danger
6) Reach out to the press.
Once we were on the agenda for the school board meeting, we wrote the press release and sent to local media contacts. Provide local stories and pithy quotes. Many reporters seek out stories from a human interest perspective. It is important to have local stories to feed reporters.
Even if you leave with a resolution bearing no signatures in your hand, know and feel proud that you are part of a national movement that is putting a spotlight back on the students, back on the teachers, and back on those who this policy truly affects. These are local struggles, some of which may be lost, but we must continue to have our voices heard in our communities. And we will ultimately prevail to further prevent gun violence.