United Methodist Women Statement

United Methodist Women Mourns School Murders, Commends Students, Warns Against Militarization of Schools

United Methodist Women Mourns School Murders, Commends Students, Warns Against Militarization of Schools
Vigils & protests after the shooting in Parkland have ignited a national movement to improve school safety & tighten gun control.

United Methodist Women mourns the recent school shooting deaths in Parkland, Florida. We pray for the students, families and staff of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School as they prepare to return to the site of a chilling massacre. We cannot know the depths of their sorrow and fear, but we hope and pray that God will comfort them during their season of grief.

We also extend our thanks to the young people of Parkland who are engaging in faithful witness even through their time of mourning. They have urged forward a national movement, calling for commonsense gun reforms and long-overdue action to restrain the use of assault weapons like the one that killed their classmates. The Bible tells us that "a little child shall lead them" (Isaiah 11:6). The youth of Parkland, and their fellow students around the country, truly are our leaders today. They are "peacemakers," and we call them as they are: "children of God" (Matthew 5:9).

Even as we are inspired and touched by these young people's words and actions, we are increasingly concerned about some of the rhetoric we are hearing. Militarizing our schools—and criminalizing our children—will not keep our children safe.

We can, and we must, protect our children and youth—but to do so, we must be honest and thoughtful. Our country has a history of using tragedy to push though harmful policies related to school discipline and juvenile justice. Since the mid-1990s, we have responded to school violence with the creation and escalation of "zero tolerance" policies and use of police officers for school discipline. While often touted as "solutions" to violence in schools, such policies are not successful in stemming the tide of tragedies like those in Parkland, Florida. In fact, such policies do harm.

The weight of policies that criminalize children falls heaviest on children and youth of color. As the school discipline system becomes increasingly intertwined with the criminal justice system, schools become over policed and excessively harsh punishments become standard. Ordinary, minor childhood and adolescent misbehavior is criminalized. Implicit racial bias means students of color are far more likely to be seen as "potential criminals," rather than as the beloved children and youth that they are.

Over policing and zero tolerance policies are problems masquerading as solutions. Both feed the school-to-prison pipeline.

United Methodist Women is working to interrupt the school-to-prison pipeline created by policies that place too many poor children and children of color on an adversarial path with law enforcement, while failing to address the underlying cause of gun violence in schools.

We can, and must, do better by all our children.

As we mourn together, let us seek real solutions to school violence that protect all our children.

United Methodist Women is a nearly 800,000-member organization of women turning their faith, hope and love into action for 150 years. Members raise more than $15 million annually to support ministries empowering women, children and youth. Interrupting the school-to prison pipeline that endangers children and adds to the nation's mass incarceration problem is one of the organizations justice priorities.

Posted or updated: 2/23/2018 12:00:00 AM

"Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted ...
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled ...
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God."

Matthew 5:4,6,9

"As followers of Jesus, called to live into the reality of God's dream of shalom as described by Micah, we must address the epidemic of gun violence so "that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in God's paths."

The Book of Resolutions of
The United Methodist Church, 2016

United Methodist Women Communications

Yvette Moore
Director of Communications
phone: (212) 870-3822

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* Interrupting the school-to-prison pipeline: Racial justice resources