“Why don’t you like your school?” I asked my 6-year-old patient during his annual check up.
The appointment had started with smiles and enthusiastic responses to my questions about drinking water, eating vegetables, going to the dentist, and so on. When I asked how 1st grade was going, his mood soured. He did not like school.
“There’s always shootings going on.”
That answer was one of those times in a pediatrician’s week that just stops routine conversation and clinical work. The boy’s mother explained that the elementary school had a lockdown drill a week ago to maintain preparedness in the event of gun violence. Then there was an actual shooting across the street from the school a few days later when an altercation escalated between two men. The children went through the school lockdown procedure all over again.
The public health crisis of gun violence has made our children fearful of safely going to school, shopping with their families, attending a concert, or praying in their places of worship. From Parkland to Los Angeles to Chicago and to my patients’ community of southeast Washington, DC, children across the country are struggling with the fear of gun violence claiming more lives. Schools in every community have made lockdown procedures routine, teaching children to quietly duck and cover and hope for survival.
Our members of Congress have a routine too. They routinely share their thoughts and prayers rather than pass basic gun safety policies.
Enough is enough.
On Wednesday, March 14, thousands of students will be participating in a National School Walkout to protest the failures of Congress to confront the public health crises of gun violence. Across the country, from high schools to medical schools, students will walk out of their classes to demand Congress pass gun safety legislation NOW (it’s not too late to find one near you).
This is about the health of our young people, and that means it’s about us, too.
As a pediatrician and member of Doctors For America, I strongly urge my colleagues in health care to show their support for students in their communities during the National School Walkout. Give a DFA “Doctor’s Note” to excuse students for being absent from class as they take action to end gun violence.
To make our solidarity with students more visible, take pictures of yourself (wear your white coat!) with students and the doctor’s notes. Everyone can post these pictures on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and other social media platforms with the hashtag #DocsForGunSafety. Students, parents, teachers, and community organizers can download a blank DFA “Doctor’s Note” and ask supportive health care providers for signatures and pictures.
Health care providers are proud to support students and families as we bring communities together to end gun violence and save lives. We can lift each other’s voices to demand Congress pass gun safety policies like funding for public health research on gun violence, banning weapons of war in our neighborhoods, universal background checks, banning all domestic abusers from owning firearms, and so much more.
So to the students joining the walkout: I encourage you and your parents or guardians to contact your pediatrician or family doctor and ask them to stand with you by signing the note. And to my fellow medical professionals, I encourage you to do it. Our solidarity with these bold young people can help end gun violence; it’s one more way we can save lives.