Every morning, Abbey Clements feeds her dog, fills her tumbler full of home-brewed coffee, and reviews a mental checklist of what her fourth graders will need that day. Like so many teachers, Clements has a morning routine that helps her be “on” and ready to do the most important job in the world.
But unlike most teachers, Clements is a survivor of the Sandy Hook School tragedy of 2012.
And on too many mornings, learning of yet another school shooting is part of her morning routine.
Abbey is embroiled in a two-front war. Memories of that horrible day in 2012 are ever-present, and they’re activated every time another mass shooting takes place in the United States, which is statistically a daily occurrence. So far in 2023 (as of mid-April), there have 131 mass shootings—more shootings than days in the year so far.
Which is why Abbey, Sarah Lerner, and Sari Beth Rosenberg founded Teachers Unify To End Gun Violence.
“It is appalling and shameful that we allow these atrocities to continue!” says Clements emphatically, adding simply, “Gun violence is not impossible to end.”
Teachers Unify began in November of 2021, when Michigan’s Oxford High School was in the news for its school shooting.
“Abbey messaged the group text with Sarah and me and said, ‘I am sickened and fed up with all of this. Want to start a group of teachers and school staff to speak out and amplify our voices against gun violence?’” recalls Rosenberg. “We immediately responded: HELL YES!”
One of Clements’ most prominent partners in crime, or rather, in fighting it, is Sari Beth Rosenberg, a public school teacher in NYC who rarely pulls a punch. “Right-wing politicians are banning books, banning lessons on slavery and racism as well as banning kids from learning in school that gay and queer people exist,” spits an exasperated Rosenberg. “‘Wokeness’ isn’t hurting kids, the lack of gun control laws are what is hurting kids!”
Today, Teachers Unify has a membership of more than 1,800 educators, and it’s growing every day. If you’ve been looking for a way to join the growing movement for gun violence prevention schools, there has never been a better time to join.
“We are the bridge connecting the gun violence prevention movement and the education space,” says Clements proudly.
“Educators and school staff have a unique, important, and often anxiety-inducing experience with gun violence—active shooter drills, lockdown drills, the endless news cycle, caring for kids traumatized by gun violence in their communities, and families, armed guards, districts arming teachers … and that which they experience themselves,” she finishes quietly. “We are the caretakers and understand the enormous responsibility we have in keeping students safe.”
If you’re reading this on a weekday, then you know that for Abbey Clements, today began with her usual routine. Despite her acute knowledge of mass shootings in America and her personal experience at Sandy Hook Elementary, Clements did what she always does this morning: She prepared herself to teach.
She may be fighting a two-front war, but she knows it’s a war that she and her colleagues cannot afford to lose; a war that her own fourth graders and millions more around the country need her to win. And as she gets ready every morning, she takes comfort in the knowledge that she isn’t fighting alone.
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