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Reflections On Parkland

The time for civil disobedience is now

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I admit it. I'm the weird one. Long before Parkland, long before Sandy Hook, long ago, I began the practice of keeping my classroom door closed and locked at all times. What makes me weird is that I do not allow anyone except me to open the door.

You read that correctly. I answer the door, not the students, not any teenagers, not any children. ME. Only me.

Teens see a classmate or friend through the window and throw the door open, not stopping to realize that someone they cannot see may be right there, ready to come through the door.

It's routine for me. I hear a knock or a student alerts me that there's someone at the door. I go to the door, scan as much up and down the hallway as I can, assess the situation, and make the decision. If I make the wrong decision, I'm the one in the doorway dealing with it, while my students are jumping out the windows as fast as they can.

Weird ol' Mr. Sampson. It's the best I can do to keep my room secure.

As I write this, calls and plans for school walkouts have begun. Three days are mentioned: March 14, April 20 (anniversary of Columbine) and May 1. I have made no decision as to what I will do. I could be fired if I walk. At 60 years of age, it will be difficult to find another job and 60 is too early to retire. But the moment has arrived when one must make a decision whether to stand up and be counted, or sit silently by.

Enough about me. This is a call for civil disobedience and that is what I will help my students understand. There are times when rules and laws must be disobeyed, either because the laws and rules themselves are immoral, or because something of tremendous importance requires action that would not usually be considered.

Students taking action, demanding change, demanding reasonable laws, insisting that their lives be protected, organizing protests in whatever form—a walk-out, a sit-in or a march—these students are making the decision to engage in civil disobedience for a cause that matters to them very much: their lives.

There will be consequences and they need to understand that possibility. That's the point of civil disobedience. Authorities impose consequences until they are so shamed by the lack of resistance that they cannot ignore the issue anymore.

Remember that you cannot enter the U.S. Capitol Building without undergoing a screening of your belongings and passing through a metal detector. Congress protects itself. Yet those same senators and representatives won't even try to engage in writing laws to protect American schoolchildren.

Out of thousands of responses I read in the days after Parkland, I found only two teachers who said, "Hell, yes, let me have a gun." I'd like to say no teacher is saying that, but I have to be factual. The fact that almost no teacher wants a deadly weapon in their classroom should give sufficient pause to the self-appointed experts who think that, because they once went to school, they know everything about education.

We can stop these tragedies. But it demands that we have the will to do so. It takes the ability to find solutions and do it! It takes giving up all the divisions that our elite have devised to keep us apart and fighting when we the people should come together, give the elite the boot, and "form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity."

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Sampson is a local teacher who blogs at stoneeggs.blogspot.com.

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