Let’s Talk About School Shootings

Uneasy about discussing school shootings—and its related issues like gun laws, student activism, and masculinity—with your students? Here are some resources to start the conversation.

On February 14, there was a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Seventeen people were killed. Seventeen were wounded. It was inconceivable. Horrific. Catastrophic. A nightmare. How do you talk about this traumatic event with your students? How do you allay their fears and concerns as your school conducts lockdown drills and maybe even Active Shooter Civilian Response Training. Three weeks later, Parkland students are at the forefront of activism—lighting up social media, saying “enough” to elected officials and demanding gun reform. With passion and a range of opinions, the country is talking about how best to keep kids safe.

Some teachers are hesitant to unpack and discuss challenging events like this with their students because it feels complex and uncomfortable. But thoughtfully talking about these controversial topics also cultivates critical thinking. We’d like to help you by offering collections of relevant YES! stories and outside resources, plus discussion questions. Our promise is to choose resources that give voice to multiple perspectives—and get to the truth. 

Our fifth “Let’s Talk About” is on school shootings and its related issues of gun laws, masculinity, and student activism. You can look forward to a “Let’s Talk About” topic every first Thursday of the month. 

As always, thank you for the important work that you do. You make a significant difference in how students connect with this big world—and how they can make it better.

How to Use This Collection 

Suggested below are steps to a thoughtful and meaningful discussion with your students about school shootings. Choose what is appropriate for your class.

1. Students complete a pre-survey (optional).
2. Choose at least one YES! article and one outside article for a robust compare and contrast.
3. Use the discussion questions—or craft your own—to gauge your students’ understanding and opinions.
4. Students complete a post-survey (optional).
5. Explore curriculum if you’d like to dive deeper.

Reading Materials

YES! Articles

The Big Reason Young People Don’t Debate Gun Control the Way Adults Do

How Master Propagandists Linked Immigrants to the Florida School Shooting

Gun Violence Has Dropped Dramatically in 3 States With Very Different Gun Laws

High School Students Demanding Gun Reform Join Rich History of Teen Resistance

Do Gun Control Debates Ever Change Anything? In These Countries They Did

The Racist Origin of the Second Amendment and the Rise of Black Gun Ownership

Outside Resources

Don’t Blame Mental Illness for Mass Shootings; Blame Men

NRA chief: Security, not gun control, is answer to school shootings

How gun ownership became a powerful political identity

Discussion Questions

1. Why do school shootings happen? What factors lead to them?

2. What methods do you think would prevent school shootings?

3. Even though students who are undocumented or under 18 years old can’t vote, what are ways that they can influence change? That you can influence change? What makes young people’s voices unique and powerful?


Educator Guide: The Battle Over Gun Control (KQED)

The Power to Change the World: A Teaching Unit on Student Activism in History and Today (NY Times)

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