New plans to arm teachers are a huge step back in gun control policy.

It’s been less than a month since the tragic school shooting in Parkland, Florida. But while things are slowly changing, the Trump administration may be working to bring more guns into schools.

According to recent policy proposals released by the White House, the administration is moving forward on its plan to provide "rigorous firearms training" for "specially qualified school personnel."

These proposals come on the heels of President Donald Trump’s comments that gun-free zones don’t work. At a Feb. 22 listening session, Trump said, "A gun-free zone to a maniac — because they’re all cowards — a gun-free zone is, let’s go in and let’s attack because bullets aren’t coming back at us."


While it’s yet unclear who exactly will be trained and armed — CNN reports that the plan also includes provisions that would help usher military and retired law enforcement officials into positions in the education system — the idea that instructors should handle firearms has been met with swift criticism since its inception.

After Florida politicians rejected a ban on assault rifles and pushed a $67 million bill that would put 37,000 armed educators in schools statewide through the legislature, the National Education Association denounced the idea, making it clear that arming teachers would turn places of learning into something more akin to prison.

Allowing more guns onto school property is not the answer.

"Bringing more guns into our schools does nothing to protect our students and educators from gun violence," NEA president Lily Eskelsen García said in a statement. "Our students need more books, art and music programs, nurses and school counselors; they do not need more guns in their classrooms."

Alexis Underwood, a seventh-grade English teacher, president of the Association of Bay County Educators, and a retired Marine, told a Florida news station that arming teachers would create more danger when the idea of arming educators was first mentioned in February.  

"One of the things that my drill instructor told me is that even individuals in the military, in a moment of crisis, when the gun fires for real, are going to forget what they’ve been taught to do and they’re going to run or they’re going to make stupid mistakes," Underwood said.

Speaking to MSNBC, Underwood emphasized that competency and trust were the main issues at stake. "When I was a Marine, I trained 52 weeks a year to be combat-ready," she explained. "Teachers just don’t have that luxury. I simply cannot train enough and teach full time and be combat-ready." She added that she didn’t trust the Florida legislature to have her back in times of emergency and crisis.

The most recent plans have also been met with staunch opposition on social media.

There's that saying that goes "the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun," but that’s simply not true.

In the Parkland case, specifically, an armed deputy was on duty at the school. He never went inside to confront the shooter. And in another recent high-profile case, a Georgia teacher sent a school into chaos after he fired a gun inside a classroom.

A recent study conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research found further proof discrediting this theory. According to the results, allowing citizens to carry concealed weapons didn’t lower violent crime. Instead, violent crime went up by as much as 15% in the 10 years after states passed such laws.

Of course, research on this topic is hard to come by. And that’s no accident.

If you’ve ever wondered why gun violence isn’t studied more often, you should know that it’s not due to a lack of caring. Instead, the government actively prevents studying gun violence as a public health issue. That’s not to say that all research into gun violence is banned, but a highly-criticized 1996 spending bill amendment bars the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from using funds to "advocate or promote gun control."

The CDC does track national vital statistics generally and includes figures on firearm deaths, but no national database tracks annual gun deaths in detail. Everytown for Gun Safety, which uses CDC data, notes guns were involved in 38,656 deaths in 2016 and that a five-year average puts the tally at around 96 gun deaths occur per day.

Ending gun violence is a fight that’s just begun.

Since the Feb. 14, 2018, shooting, the teen activists of Parkland have galvanized the nation into action. Several major retailers have dropped sales of assault weapons. Some have raised the minimum age of buying guns from 18 to 21. And corporations including Delta, United, and Enterprise have cut their connections to the National Rifle Association. While that movement and shift is important, it's not nearly enough. And even as the White House is set to endorse plans to fix the nation’s background check system and provide funds to stop violence in school, we’re reminded that more must be done.

Student protestors march on the capitol. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.

But that "more" shouldn’t be arming educators.

Speaking to The Washington Post, one parent whose children attend school in an Ohio district where security measures include gun safes holding semiautomatic pistols, said, "It doesn’t make me feel better that the teachers are armed. It just gives me new things to worry about."

Courtesy of Amita Swadhin
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In 2016, Amita Swadhin, a child of two immigrant parents from India, founded Mirror Memoirs to help combat rape culture. The national storytelling and organizing project is dedicated to sharing the stories of LGBTQIA+ Black, indigenous people, and people of color who survived child sexual abuse.

"Whether or not you are a survivor, 100% of us are raised in rape culture. It's the water that we're swimming in. But just as fish don't know they are in water, because it's just the world around them that they've always been in, people (and especially those who aren't survivors) may need some help actually seeing it," they add.

"Mirror Memoirs attempts to be the dye that helps everyone understand the reality of rape culture."

Amita built the idea for Mirror Memoirs from a theater project called "Undesirable Elements: Secret Survivors" that featured their story and those of four other survivors in New York City, as well as a documentary film and educational toolkit based on the project.

"Secret Survivors had a cast that was gender, race, and age-diverse in many ways, but we had neglected to include transgender women," Amita explains. "Our goal was to help all people who want to co-create a world without child sexual abuse understand that the systems historically meant to help survivors find 'healing' and 'justice' — namely the child welfare system, policing, and prisons — are actually systems that facilitate the rape of children in oppressed communities," Amita continues. "We all have to explore tools of healing and accountability outside of these systems if we truly want to end all forms of sexual violence and rape culture."

Amita also wants Mirror Memoirs to be a place of healing for survivors that have historically been ignored or underserved by anti-violence organizations due to transphobia, homophobia, racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy.

Amita Swadhin

"Hearing survivors' stories is absolutely healing for other survivors, since child sexual abuse is a global pandemic that few people know how to talk about, let alone treat and prevent."

"Since sexual violence is an isolating event, girded by shame and stigma, understanding that you're not alone and connecting with other survivors is alchemy, transmuting isolation into intimacy and connection."

This is something that Amita knows and understands well as a survivor herself.

"My childhood included a lot of violence from my father, including rape and other forms of domestic violence," says Amita. "Mandated reporting was imposed on me when I was 13 and it was largely unhelpful since the prosecutors threatened to incarcerate my mother for 'being complicit' in the violence I experienced, even though she was also abused by my father for years."

What helped them during this time was having the support of others.

"I'm grateful to have had a loving younger sister and a few really close friends, some of whom were also surviving child sexual abuse, though we didn't know how to talk about it at the time," Amita says.

"I'm also a queer, non-binary femme person living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and those identities have shaped a lot of my life experiences," they continue. "I'm really lucky to have an incredible partner and network of friends and family who love me."

"These realizations put me on the path of my life's work to end this violence quite early in life," they said.

Amita wants Mirror Memoirs to help build awareness of just how pervasive rape culture is. "One in four girls and one in six boys will be raped or sexually assaulted by the age of 18," Amita explains, "and the rates are even higher for vulnerable populations, such as gender non-conforming, disabled, deaf, unhoused, and institutionalized children." By sharing their stories, they're hoping to create change.

"Listening to stories is also a powerful way to build empathy, due to the mirror neurons in people's brains. This is, in part, why the project is called Mirror Memoirs."

So far, Mirror Memoirs has created an audio archive of BIPOC LGBTQI+ child sexual abuse survivors sharing their stories of survival and resilience that includes stories from 60 survivors across 50 states. This year, they plan to record another 15 stories, specifically of transgender and nonbinary people who survived child sexual abuse in a sport-related setting, with their partner organization, Athlete Ally.

"This endeavor is in response to the more than 100 bills that have been proposed across at least 36 states in 2021 seeking to limit the rights of transgender and non-binary children to play sports and to receive gender-affirming medical care with the support of their parents and doctors," Amita says.

In 2017, Mirror Memoirs held its first gathering, which was attended by 31 people. Today, the organization is a fiscally sponsored, national nonprofit with two staff members, a board of 10 people, a leadership council of seven people, and 500 members nationally.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, they created a mutual aid fund for the LGBTQIA+ community of color and were able to raise a quarter-million dollars. They received 2,509 applications for assistance, and in the end, they decided to split the money evenly between each applicant.

While they're still using storytelling as the building block of their work, they're also engaging in policy and advocacy work, leadership development, and hosting monthly member meetings online.

For their work, Amita is one of Tory's Burch's Empowered Women. Their donation will go to Mirror Memoirs to help fund production costs for their new theater project, "Transmutation: A Ceremony," featuring four Black transgender, intersex, and non-binary women and femmes who live in California.

"I'm grateful to every single child sexual survivor who has ever disclosed their truth to me," Amita says. "I know another world is possible, and I know survivors will build it, together with all the people who love us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

This article originally appeared on 06.28.21


After Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed Black man, was pursued and shot by three white residents while jogging through a Georgia suburb, Ellen and Patrick Miller* of San Diego hung a Black Lives Matter flag in front of their house. It was a small gesture, but something tangible they could do.

Like many people, they wanted to both support the BLM movement and bring awareness about racism to members of their community. Despite residing in a part of the county notoriously rumored to be marred by white supremacists and their beliefs, their neighbors didn't say much about it—at first.

Recently, though, during a short window when both Ellen and Patrick were out of the house, someone sliced the flag in two and left the remains in their yard.

via Paula Fitzgibbons

They were upset, but not surprised.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."