The San Francisco Unified School District is set to take its strongest stance yet against gun violence.
Tonight, the Board of Education will consider a resolution that would call for the district to support gun-control policies, communicate information about gun-buyback events and gun-safety practices with families, and expand upon lessons in the classroom around violence prevention.
In addition, the resolution also explains how the SFUSD will continue to support students who have experienced other types of violence.
Recent incidents affecting youths in San Francisco, including the fatal stabbing of 14-year-old Rashawn Williams on Sept. 2 and the shooting death of youth outreach worker Allen Calloway in front of a crowd of children that included his own 10-year-old son on June 30, prompted Board of Education Commissioner Matt Haney to introduce the resolution with the help of gun violence-prevention advocates and students.
“Many of our schools have been dealing with the aftereffects of these incidents in the past few months,” Haney said. “As a school district, we have a responsibility to our kids and families to ensure that they are supported when these kinds of incidents occur.”
Children in The City are, sadly, no strangers to violence, Haney noted. Homicides are the leading cause of death among 15- to 24-year-olds in The City, where the rate of youth homicides is nearly twice as high as the rest of the state, according to San Francisco's Adolescent Health Working Group.
In 2008, of the 98 homicides reported in San Francisco, approximately 38 percent were victims ages 14 to 25. Nationwide, more than 15,000 children and teens were injured by gunfire and 2,694 juveniles died from gunfire in 2010.
“Gun violence is a health epidemic in our nation, and it needs to be treated like that,” said Mattie Scott, president of the San Francisco chapter of the Brady Campaign who helped Haney write the resolution. Scott's 24-year-old son was fatally shot in 1996.
As recently as two weeks ago, a 22-year-old man was shot to death just outside the fence to Rosa Parks Elementary School, prompting San Francisco resident Tim Miller, whose two children attend the school, to call on city officials to address safety in that area.
“Do we need to wait until a child is injured before we take action?” said Miller, who wants to see a stronger police presence and greater violence deterrents near the school.
Kevin Gogin, director of safety and wellness for the SFUSD's Student, Family and Community Support Department, said the district and Police Department have discussed the Rosa Parks Elementary shooting and ways to increase safety around the school, possibly including increasing patrols.
“We are in ongoing dialogue with our city partners … to create a safe zone around our schools,” Gogin said.
The resolution is also timed with the SFUSD's Violence Prevention Month in November, and comes weeks before a gun-buyback event in December sponsored by the Police Department and Mayor's Office.
While the SFUSD already addresses violence prevention as part of its health-education curriculum, the resolution seeks to expand such lessons taught throughout middle and high schools as well as encourage schools to hold events for students and families relating to the prevention of gun violence.
“We're hoping that this spurs a broader conversation in schools around guns and gun violence,” Haney said of the resolution.
Per the resolution, the SFUSD will also send home a letter in early December to parents with information about how to dispose of a gun, and updated state laws that require guns to be stored safely and away from children. Additionally, information about the Police Department's Dec. 13 gun-buyback event will be shared with parents.
The effects of violence remain poignant at San Francisco schools today. Students at Buena Vista Horace Mann K-8 School are still grieving following the death of Rashawn Williams, who graduated from the Mission school last spring.
In fact, eighth-grade students who were friends with Williams helped write the resolution as part of a civics lesson, said Tara Kini, a social studies teacher at Buena Vista Horace Mann.
Students' suggestions for the resolution included to strengthen language in the SFUSD's commitment to providing mental health support to those who experience violence, as well as adding that the SFUSD will take a public stance in support of gun-control laws, Kini said.
Some of Kini's students plan to attend tonight's board meeting to share their own stories of violence.
“It touches so many of them so personally,” Kini said of Williams' death. “Many of the students in my class, when they were talking about this issue … spoke about the impact of gangs in their community in particular, [and] gun violence in their community.”