LAUSD board takes stand against gun violence, again

In the wake of the Monterey Park and Half Moon Bay mass shootings in California, and mass shootings nationwide, the LAUSD Board of Education proudly, yet wearily, passed a resolution exploring new means to fight gun violence.

The resolution seeks to advocate for gun safety laws at the state and national level, review financial policies to identify opportunities to divest from any gun-related businesses, and recognize the first Friday in June as National Gun Violence Awareness and Wear Orange Day.

This follows recent actions taken by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, also in response to the shootings, to tighten gun regulations in unincorporated areas of the county.

“It’s time we yet again take a stand and say that enough is enough,” said LAUSD Board Member Nick Melvoin, the author of the resolution, at the Tuesday, Feb. 7 meeting. “We need to leave no stone unturned because children are dying and so this resolution seeks to reiterate our previous support for some of these efforts and seeks creative new ways to help end this epidemic.”

The board unanimously passed Melvoin’s resolution, but did so while also expressing exasperation over the fact that gun violence is only continuing to grow.

“It frustrates me when I see a well-intentioned, well-worded resolution and yet, what will change?” said Board Member George McKenna. “Am I optimistic? Not as much as I’m realistic, even pessimistic and rightfully so because I haven’t seen anything that really makes a difference.”

Some of the challenges board members discussed include the federal governments’ failure to strengthen gun laws, L.A.’s strong black market for buying and selling guns and the fact that people can now easily print 3D guns.

LAUSD Superintendent Alberto Carvalho called the motion “the right policy at the right time,” but also acknowledged the uphill battle the district faces in addressing the issue.

“It is a scourge in our nation; it is an embarrassment in our country, particularly when a bad condition actually becomes worse,” Carvalho said. “Over the past 12 months, firearms have been the reason why more kids die in America than anything else.”

Board Member Rocio Rivas condemned the disproportionate impact gun violence has on communities of color and particularly on Black communities.

“Gun violence is a racial justice issue,” said Rivas. “Black Americans are 10 times more likely than white Americans to die by gun homicides.”

Rivas introduced an amendment adding language to recognize that inequity and request that the district advocate for investment in community programs to address the root causes of gun violence. This amendment was accepted by Melvoin and adopted by the board.

Several parents, students and teachers also spoke during public comment and shared their own fears about guns in their schools and communities.

“Guns are the number one killer of children and teens in America,” said Ashley Annette Castillo, a gun violence survivor student at City of Angels Independent Studies. “Even in California, the state with the strongest gun legislation in the nation, we still face the horrifying effects of gun violence on a daily basis.”

“Students risked their lives just to receive an education,” she added.

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Kirsten Farrell, a former teacher at Venice High School and current athletic training coordinator for LAUSD, spoke of the many students she lost to gun violence.

“For Augustine, who who was shot and killed on our campus, for Sal and Alan shot and killed in Penmar Park just days before graduation, for Oscar who was shot and killed returning home for dinner and for Ty who was shot and killed protecting the passenger in his car, I stand before you readily to support Nick Melvoin’s ‘enough’ resolution,” Farrell said.

Melvoin thanked the public speakers for sharing their stories and acknowledged that yes, the board is limited in its ability to impact the crisis. Nevertheless, he stood by the importance of the resolution.

“I was also thinking about Dr. King’s charge that if you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do, you’ve got to keep moving forward,” said Melvoin. “And that’s what we’re trying to do here: just keep moving forward.”

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