El Sistema USA® (ESUSA) is deeply saddened by the horrific mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas on May 24, in which 19 students and two adults were killed. ESUSA programs stand for beauty, collaboration, belonging, and community. We build community and safe outlets for students through music after school and on weekends, as a means to invest in children’s futures by investing in them now. As a movement, we work toward teaching through the lens of trauma-informed care, in response to mounting mental health issues and to support students and families who experience the adverse impacts of living in under-resourced communities.
Yet the terror of school gun violence is another layer of trauma that is being inflicted on young people across the country.
We do not accept the normalization of school gun violence in our country. As an organization, we commit to fighting against gun violence to ensure safe spaces for students to grow and learn and blossom. We also commit to supporting the field through providing trauma-informed training to teachers, cultivating youth leadership and voice, and advocating for equity in music education on the national level.
ESUSA calls on our members, the schools they work with, and the greater communities they work within to counter normalization of violence in schools. First, through the preventive work of youth and community development. We encourage educators to gain a deeper understanding of trauma-informed and holistic approaches to safety plans and procedures that work to protect and bring healing in emergency situations.
Second, ESUSA encourages programs to advocate for their students and stand against gun violence by becoming involved in local discourse at school board meetings, town council meetings, and with your local representatives. We recognize that many of our members are already doing this important work, and we hope all members will be inspired to follow their lead. We must be at the table when it comes to discussing issues such as school funding, mental health resources, policing practices, and gun laws.
Just in the past three and a half years, there have been 119 school shootings, killing 88 people and injuring 229 in the United States. (These statistics come from Education Week, which pursues what it calls the “heartbreaking but important work” of tracking school shootings and deaths.) The schools that have suffered mass gun violence now number in the hundreds. Each deadly shooting stirs outrage—and then the news cycle moves on. ESUSA calls on our members, and on all educators and activists for social action through music, not to move on and forget. As students and teachers, programs, and communities, we must stay engaged in the fight to protect our young people from violence and trauma, and to ensure them safe musical spaces in which to flourish.