Parkland shooting victims are remembered in silence
By KELLI KENNEDY, ADRIANA GOMEZ LICON and TERRY SPENCER
Friday, February 15
PARKLAND, Fla. (AP) — Students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High and other schools across the U.S. bowed their heads in a moment of silence and took part in volunteer projects Thursday to mark the anniversary of the shooting rampage that claimed 17 lives. But for many Parkland students, the tragedy was still so raw they couldn’t bring themselves to set foot in the building.
Fewer than 300 of the 3,200 students at the high school showed up for what was only a half-day, with classes cut short so that the teenagers would not be there around 2:20 p.m., the traumatic moment last year when gunfire erupted.
Senior Spencer Bloom skipped school to spend the day with students from the history class he was in during the shooting. He said he struggles with panic attacks and feared he might have one if he went in to school.
“There’s all this emotion and it’s all being concentrated back on one day,” Bloom said.
The massacre on Feb. 14, 2018 — Valentine’s Day — inflamed the nation’s debate over guns, turned some Parkland students into political activists and gave rise to some of the biggest youth demonstrations since the Vietnam era.
Many Stoneman Douglas students arrived wearing the burgundy #MSDStrong T-shirts that have become an emblem of the tragedy. Outside, clear plastic figurines of angels were erected for each of the 14 students and three staff members killed.
A moment of silence was observed there and at other schools across Florida and beyond at 10:17 a.m., a time selected to denote the 17 slain.
Reporters were not allowed inside the school, but students packed lunches for poor children in Haiti as part of a number of volunteer projects undertaken to try to make something good come out of the tragedy.
Grief counselors and therapy dogs were made available along with massages and pedicures. An interfaith service occurred later in the day at a nearby park.
Freshman Jayden Jaus, 14, said the moment of silence was “a bit emotional and a little intense” as the principal read the victims’ names over the public address system.
Sophomore Julia Brighton, who suffered nightmares for months after the gunman killed three people in her classroom, placed flowers at the memorial outdoors instead of going inside and “putting myself through that.”
Victims’ families said they would spend the day quietly, visiting their loved ones’ graves or participating in low-key events like a community walk.
Lori Alhadeff posted an open letter to her 14-year-old daughter Alyssa, who died in the shooting. Alhadeff remembered how Alyssa didn’t want to go to school because she didn’t have a valentine. But when she dropped her daughter off, she put a pair of diamond earrings in Alyssa’s ears and gave her a chocolate bar to make her smile.
They told each other, “I love you,” and Alhadeff watched Alyssa walk away in a black and white dress and white sneakers: “Your long, dark hair dangled. Your makeup looked just right.”
“The last time I saw you alive,” wrote Alhadeff, who was elected to the Broward County school board after the shooting on a platform pushing campus safety.
Victim Joaquin Oliver’s girlfriend, senior Tori Gonzalez, organized a group of a dozen students and alumni to read poems to a large crowd outside the school in the late afternoon. They brought a life-size statue of Oliver, who was 17.
“My mind runs each and every route that could have saved your life,” she read tearfully. “It wasn’t Cupid shooting arrows of love — it was an AR-15.”
More than a thousand people gathered in the evening at Pine Trails Park, about a mile from the school, for an interfaith service that opened with a video highlighting dozens of service projects launched in honor of the victims, including plantings at a beach to halt erosion, a campaign to help abandoned animals and the remodeling of a dance studio.
Among those gathered was Sydney Mills, 13, who used to dance with shooting victim Jamie Guttenberg. She said she had written notes to her friend and to some of the other victims at another park earlier in the day. “It felt sad, but it also felt nice to be honoring her and knowing that everyone there was thinking of everyone that died,” she said.
Ilise Bogart, whose daughter was in one of the classrooms that were attacked, said it had been a difficult year. “I think all the days are hard, but today is bringing back memories of everything that happened,” she said.
Elsewhere around the country, at Broadman High in Youngstown, Ohio, the school rang a chime 17 times and honored local first responders. But in a sign of the times, an active shooter drill was also held.
Senior Jack Pendleton helped plan the day’s anniversary activities. “We turn away from the dread and have to look more toward who’s helping us,” he said.
Students at Maryland’s Bethesda Chevy Chase High School displayed 671 white T-shirts bearing the names of teenagers killed nationally by gun violence last year.
At Fort Lauderdale High, a 30-minute drive from Stoneman Douglas, junior Jake Lynch paused with 20 other students in his law class as the school observed its moment of silence.
“It’s a permanent sore spot,” Lynch said. “Forever, me going forward, I’ll feel this day, and this time and those names. It reminds me of where I want the world to be. … From suffering, better things come out.”
In Rio Rancho, New Mexico, a student at V. Sue Cleveland High School fired a shot in a hall and ran away, authorities said. He was soon captured. No one was hurt.
The former student accused of opening fire with an AR-15 assault rifle in the Parkland attack, Nikolas Cruz, now 20, is awaiting trial.
Find all The Associated Press’ coverage marking one year since the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, at https://apnews.com/ParklandFloridaschoolshooting
Parkland shooting: One year later, Congress still avoids action on gun control
February 13, 2019
Author: Harry L. Wilson, Professor of Public Affairs, Roanoke College
Disclosure statement: Harry L. Wilson does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
One year after the deadly mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Florida and a handful of states have passed stricter gun laws, but little has changed with the federal government’s firearms policy.
Polls conducted after the Florida shooting showed that a majority of Americans supported stronger gun laws – including tighter restrictions on purchases and a ban on assault weapons – in the wake of the shooting.
Students demanded that elected officials “do something,” and many adults echoed that sentiment.
But policy does not always follow public opinion. Why are the public’s pleas on this and other issues ignored?
I’m a pollster and a political scientist who has examined the issue from different perspectives.
I’ve found three major reasons that policy does not always follow public opinion: the structure of the U.S. government, the overlooked complexities of public opinion and the influence of voters and interest groups.
Citizens don’t make policy
First, the United States is a republic, not a direct democracy. Citizens choose representatives who make policy decisions; citizens do not make those decisions directly. The Founders, who were not all fans of democracy and feared mob rule, established our governmental structure over 200 years ago, and those foundations remain today.
While about half the states have some form of initiative or referendum process to allow voters to directly enact policy, there is no such provision in the U.S. Constitution. And for those who advocate the repeal of the Second Amendment as a way to restrict gun ownership in the U.S., that’s not accomplished directly by citizens, either. Such changes would have to be voted on by elected representatives in Congress and legislatures across the country.
The composition and rules of Congress are also crucial, especially in the Senate, where each state has two votes. By design, this allocation of senators disproportionately represents the interests of less populous states.
So California and New York, the first and fourth largest states and ones that favor stricter gun laws, comprise about 18 percent of the population of the United States but only 4 percent of the senators. Alaska, Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Idaho, which tend to favor gun rights, comprise about 2 percent of the population and 12 percent of the Senate.
The House of Representatives, where each state is guaranteed at least one representative, also advantages lower-population states, albeit to a much lesser extent. The House is also subject to the partisan drawing of districts which has advantaged Republicans – who tend to support gun rights – since the 2010 Census.
The ubiquitous use of the filibuster, which can allow a Senate minority to block majority-supported legislation means most substantive legislation must get 60 votes in the Senate to pass. In a closely divided Senate, 60 votes are almost impossible to muster.
In addition, national sentiment is not mirrored in every state or congressional district.
Policy often doesn’t follow polling
Second: Polling and public opinion are not as straightforward as they seem. Focusing on only one or two poll questions can distort the public’s views regarding gun control.
Polling numbers generally show strong support for gun control measures such as universal background checks and an assault weapons ban.
Simultaneously, most Americans think that additional gun control measures won’t reduce violent crime. This is not surprising because most Americans don’t blame guns for these tragedies.
We should also keep in mind that gun control is not the only issue in which policy does not follow opinion. Other such issues include foreign aid and abortion.
And policy that reflects the “will of the people” may collide with legitimate legal constraints. Crafting legislation that disqualifies those we all agree should not possess firearms but protects the rights of law-abiding citizens is quite difficult.
For example, the American Civil Liberties Union opposed an order that would have prevented Social Security recipients with mental disabilities who have others managing their benefits from purchasing firearms. “Assault weapons” are difficult to define – and thus legally ban – because semi-automatic rifles can be used for hunting, too, as can AR-style rifles, although they are not commonly used for that purpose.
People vote, not polls
Finally, the influence of voters and interest groups can counteract the influence of the majority’s opinion in swaying policy.
Who votes matters. Gun owners are more likely than non-owners to vote based on the issue of gun control, to have contacted an elected official about gun rights, and to have contributed money to an organization that takes a position on gun control.
Such differing rates of political activity are to be expected because many gun owners fear their rights are or will be restricted, and that drives them to the polls. But the frequent appearances of gun control advocates in the news can lead to the erroneous impression that they are more passionate than gun rights supporters.
The National Rifle Association is a critical player in this discussion. In some ways a victim of its own success, the gun owners’ rights group is thought by many to have outsized power that it wields indiscriminately. In the last year, however, the organization’s finances and membership have diminished.
Its critics have called it a terrorist organization with blood on its hands and legislators who support gun rights have been referred to as “NRA-complicit bloody hannded (sic) mass murder enablers.”
At the major national annual conference for conservatives in February 2018, known as CPAC, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre responded to that criticism by talking about a “socialist agenda.” He said NRA critics and “the elite” wanted to “eradicate all individual freedoms.”
The rhetoric is toxic, and both sides are guilty.
Whatever power the NRA possesses is a result of its membership and their votes. It claims approximately 5 million members, who pay attention to the group’s candidate ratings and generally vote accordingly.
Many others who are not members also agree with the group as evidenced by its consistent “favorable” ratings, typically measured in the 50 percent-plus range. Support for stricter gun laws typically increases after a mass shooting, but it tends to revert back to the trend line over time.
Elected officials want votes. There is no doubt that money is essential for political campaigns, but votes, not money or polls, are what determine elections. If a group can supply votes, then it has power. As such, the NRA is very powerful in some parts of the country and quite weak in others.
Many factors influence how legislation is drafted, amended, enacted and implemented. Searching for a direct causal connection from public opinion to specific policies, including gun control, may be akin to a search for the holy grail.
Our elected officials care more about the opinions of those who vote for them than what the nation as a whole thinks. On most issues they represent the interests of the majority of voters in their districts – or they get voted out of office.
This is an updated version of an article originally published on March 7, 2018.
Andrew Taylor: Nov 2018 – Democratic “Blue Wave”. Jan 2019 – House of Reps order of business: 1. DENY THE WALL! 2. Embarrass the president. 3…… 4…….. [never]… doing something about guns like they said they would before the election. When will Democrat voters ever realize their heroes are bought-n-paid-for by the very same donors who own the Republicans. Remember Trump donated to every Clinton campaign until 2016.
Adolescents have a fundamental need to contribute
February 15, 2019
Author: Andrew J. Fuligni, Professor of Psychiatry & Psychology, University of California, Los Angeles
Disclosure statement: Andrew J. Fuligni receives funding from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. He is a board member of the Center for the Developing Adolescent.
Partners: University of California provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US.
No longer children but not yet adults, adolescents need opportunities to learn and prepare for their entrance into the broader society. But, as schooling increasingly extends the adolescent period and teenagers get dismissed as supposedly selfish and irresponsible, has society forgotten an important developmental need of our youth?
As a developmental scientist who focuses on adolescence, I reviewed dozens of studies and found that this age group has a fundamental need to contribute to others – to provide support, resources or help toward a shared goal. Contributing helps them achieve autonomy, identity and intimacy – important milestones on the way to adulthood.
As teenagers grow up, their brains are developing in ways that appear to support the increasingly complex ways of thinking and behaving that underlie giving to others. And being able to make meaningful contributions predicts better psychological and physical health among youth as well as adults. I believe it’s time to move away from outdated stereotypes of adolescents as only selfish and dangerous risk-takers and to consider how they are ripe for learning about contributing to others and their communities.
It’s human nature to give, even for adolescents
For decades, economists and other scientists have asked thousands of people to play experimental games that ask people to give and share money and other resources with one another. These studies have consistently shown that adults generally will provide some resources to others – some estimates put the average at around 30 percent of their allotments – even if they don’t know the recipients and expect nothing in return.
Adolescents are generous, too. Several labs around the world have reported on the tendency for youth to share at least some of their money or rewards with others in these games, even at a cost to themselves. Studies in the Netherlands suggested that adolescents aged 9 to 18 will make a costly donation to friends between 50 and 75 percent of the time. They’ll donate even to strangers at a cost to themselves between 30 and 50 percent of the time. In research our team has conducted, American adolescents agreed to give money to family at a loss to themselves about two-thirds of the time.
Add in the fact that teenagers consistently report their friends as their most frequent source of emotional and social support, and a picture emerges of adolescents as a group primed to contribute to others.
Brain developments for good
The adolescent brain gets blamed for a lot of bad behavior, such as delinquency and substance use. But this reputation is undergoing a rehabilitation.
Neuroscience research shows that brain regions related to reward – such as the ventral and dorsal striatum – become more sensitive during the teen years. At the same time, they’re strengthening connections to brain areas relevant for cognitive control, like the prefrontal cortex. Together these developments in the growing brain may be instrumental in the exploratory learning, creativity and cognitive flexibility essential to becoming an adult.
These regions and networks, as well as those relevant for thinking about other people, have been implicated in prosocial and giving behaviors. Our team’s studies have shown that several regions – such as the ventral and dorsal striatum and the dorsolateral and dorsomedial prefrontal cortex – are active when adolescents make costly donations to their family. Among youth who place great importance on helping family, we saw even more activation in additional regions related to social cognition and in the connections between them. Other researchers have obtained similar results.
These are the very same neural networks that undergo the most change during the adolescent years. The networks seem to be active during the complex decision-making – to whom, when, how much, do they really need it? – that can be involved in sharing resources, support and effort with others. It’s tricky to work through these kinds of difficult questions. The developing brain may enable youth to learn how to make the computations necessary to answer them.
Giving benefits the giver, too
Contribution helps givers and receivers. More and more evidence links giving and doing things for others with improved psychological and physical health. Volunteering and providing assistance has been correlated with lower mortality, fewer health problems and less depression.
And of course adolescents experience such benefits, as well. In an intriguing study, researchers randomly assigned one group of youths to participate in a program providing support and companionship to the elderly. Compared to a control group of teens, these adolescents later had lower circulating levels of inflammation – a marker known to be associated with a variety of chronic health problems.
Another study observed that helping others on a daily basis improved the mood of youth, particularly for those who suffered from higher levels of depressive symptoms. Our team even observed that adolescents were significantly happier on days in which they helped their families, due in part to their sense of fulfilling an important role in the family.
Helping meet the need to contribute
Providing youth with the opportunity to make contributions to others would seem to be a win-win: Youth gain skills and maintain well-being while communities benefit from their efforts. But are adolescents currently offered such opportunities in their daily lives?
First think about the home setting. Do families give adolescents a chance to participate in decision-making that affects themselves and their relatives? Do youth make instrumental contributions to their families, whether through daily chores or in more substantial ways like helping siblings with schoolwork?
In the school environment, do students feel as if their opinions are valued and their suggestions are considered? Are there enough slots in student leadership and extracurricular activities to give all students the opportunity to participate?
In the broader community, people must be welcoming of adolescents’ unique contributions, even when they may differ from the adults’. Are quality programs – those that allow youth to have a say – equitably available to the ethnically and economically diverse youth of today? Several national organizations such as Boys and Girls Clubs of America and 4-H aim to make it so, but limited resources can be a significant hurdle.
Figuring out ways to promote youth contribution can be challenging. Decisions need to be made about the appropriate type and amount, and responsible adults sometimes need to limit what adolescents can and should do. For example, participation in student governance would be positive, but taking on excessive job responsibilities that interfere with schooling and sleep would be detrimental. These decisions likely vary according to the norms and values of each community. And people must make a conscious effort to confront parochialism, by which adolescents and adults tend to give and do more for others like themselves.
Nevertheless, at a time in history when many economies no longer depend upon child and adolescent labor, perhaps the understandable desire to protect youth has led many people to forget an important ingredient in the period of life often called the “apprenticeship for adulthood.” Adolescents appear to be primed to give and contribute to others. They and our communities could benefit greatly if we collectively find more opportunities for them to do so in their daily lives.