Teacher shares strong message about gun violence

Wednesday marks one week since a gunman opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida – ...

Posted: Feb. 22, 2018 2:36 PM
Updated: Feb. 22, 2018 2:36 PM

Wednesday marks one week since a gunman opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida – taking 17 lives.

Now, the president of the Portland Association of Teachers has a strong message about gun violence.

Last week's shooting is intensely personal to her, as she graduated from that Florida high school.

"I don't think everyone understands what it's like to hide in a closet, barricade your door and prepare for an active shooter," said Suzanne Cohen.

For 15 years, Cohen was a teacher to Portland students.

"This generation is a mass shooting generation," she said.

Active school shooter drills became the normal, she says, both for her and her middle school students.

"There are questions like, what do I do, do I have to wait for you, and you're like, no you run, you save yourself," said Cohen.

One week ago, teenagers in Florida were doing just that, at Cohen's very own high school.

"I was a graduating class of 1994," she said.

Cohen says this mass shooting in her own hometown struck a nerve.

"I don't know how to explain it except I know that I need to take charge of these feelings I'm having," she said.

Cohen represents more than 4,000 educators in Portland. She is the president of the Portland Association of Teachers, and this president has a new purpose: to end gun violence at school.

"We can no longer pretend that gun control isn't an issue for education," Cohen said.

Most of Cohen's inspiration to speak out comes from these students.

"As kids who've grown up watching us adults accept these tragedies, I'm so proud of them for not accepting it," she said. "It's really very inspiring."

On Wednesday, survivors of the Parkland shooting got loud at the state capitol in Florida, calling for a ban on assault weapons.

"I'm not here for a fight. I'm not here to argue with you," said survivor Ryan Deitsch. "I just want to speak. I just want to see your face and know why!"

And in Washington D.C., more students are demanding change. Inside the walls of the White House, there was a listening session with President Donald Trump and victims of gun violence.

"It should have been one school shooting and we should have fixed it," said Andrew Pollack, whose daughter was killed in Florida shooting. "And I'm pissed, because my daughter… I'm not going to see again. She's not here."

President Trump then made the suggestion of arming teachers.

"It's called concealed carry, where a teacher would have a concealed gun on them. They'd go for special training," he said.

Cohen said it's not a solution.

"As long as we're crouching in closets and practicing locking our doors, we've got a problem, and that's what needs addressing," she said.

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