Supporting Student and Youth Voices
In the wake of the recent Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting and school shootings across America, Loyola’s Center for the Human Rights of Children affirms its commitment and full support of the student and youth voices leading the charge for reform to keep children safe in schools. Currently, gun-related deaths are the third leading cause of death for children in the United States with 60% of these deaths attributable to homicide that disproportionately affects Black youth. Pervasive gun violence against children is a uniquely American epidemic. On average 3,426 children and teens – 171 classrooms of 20 children – were killed by guns every year from 1963 to 2016. Over three times more children and teens died from guns on American soil than U.S. soldiers were killed by hostilities in wars abroad. Following acts of violence and terror, children are particularly susceptible to symptoms of trauma that impact their wellbeing and sense of security. Children and adolescents who witness shootings are vulnerable to negative mental health outcomes such as posttraumatic stress disorder, crime, substance abuse, and a plethora of other psychosocial hardships. These psychosocial hardships affect both the long-term physical and mental well-being and development of children.
The CHRC, in accordance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, sustains that all children have the right to attend school without having their safety and the safety of others threatened. The CHRC identifies this, and similar traumatic events, as a human rights issue and stands with the recent youth-led protests and statements that embody the guiding principles of a child’s right to participate in decision-making processes that are relevant to their lives and communities under the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
On March 24th, 2018, hundreds of thousands of children and adults across the globe are expected to participate in one of the 832 March For Our Lives events organized by the teenage survivors of the recent Marjory Stoneman Douglas mass school shooting. Organizers seek “to demand that a comprehensive and effective bill be immediately brought before Congress to address these gun issues.” By creating a platform to advocate for policy changes that will positively impact their sense of safety and the safety of other children across the nation and world for years to come, these children are making their voices heard, empowering other children to do the same, and bringing greater attention to children’s rights issues. We must listen and follow their lead.