Former education secretary calls for school boycott amid Nashville shooting

“Blood doesn’t know a political party,” former Obama administration education secretary Arne Duncan told theGrio.

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Questions of gun control and other efforts to stop schoolhouse and other mass shootings are dominating conversations in Washington, D.C., and around the nation, after Monday’s deadly shooting at The Covenant School in Nashville, Tennessee.

A woman pays her respects at a makeshift memorial for victims outside the Covenant School building at the Covenant Presbyterian Church following a shooting, in Nashville, Tennessee, on March 28, 2023. (Photo by Brendan SMIALOWSKI / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

“Blood doesn’t know a political party,” said former Obama administration education secretary Arne Duncan, who remembered viewing the aftermath of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut during his time in office. 

“At some point,” the educator said, “we have to say this is too much. It’s been too much.”

At the White House, President Joe Biden called on Congress to act on gun control legislation – as he’s done repeatedly one mass shooting after another  – “before another child is senselessly killed in a preventable act of gun violence.”   

The president, who signed an executive order on gun control two weeks ago, told reporters on Tuesday morning before boarding Marine One, “I have gone the full extent of my executive authority to do, on my own, anything about guns.”

The demand for congressional action comes as White House officials are sending “prayers” for the families impacted by the Covenant School shooting, where six people were killed; three children and three adults. The suspect, a former student of the school, was fatally shot by police responding to the scene of the crime.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre posed a question to reporters attending the daily briefing Monday. 

WASHINGTON, DC – MARCH 27: White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre talks to reporters during the daily news conference in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House on March 27, 2023 in Washington, DC. Jean-Pierre talked about Monday’s school shooting that left six dead in Nashville and called on Republican lawmakers to support an assault weapons ban. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

“How many more children have to be murdered before Republicans in Congress will step up and act to pass the assault weapons ban, to close loopholes in our background check system, or to require the safe storage of guns?” said Jean-Pierre.

This latest shooting takes place in Tennessee, known to have some of the weakest gun laws in the nation. One of those laws allows an adult 21 years or older to carry a handgun, openly or concealed, in Tennessee without a permit.

According to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, in 2020, Tennessee had the “10th-highest gun death rate in the country and 19th-highest gun export rate.”

Former Secretary Duncan and others, like former Ohio Governor John Kasich, have been studying the civil rights movement in hopes of identifying a remedy to America’s chronic gun violence.

One of the examples gun control advocates are examining is the Montgomery Bus Boycott, a political and social campaign that helped end the racial segregation of the South’s transit system.

WASHINGTON, DC – JULY 18: Education Minister Arne Duncan speaks during the “Let’s Read. Let’s Move” summer reading event series at the Education Department on July 18, 2012 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Kris Connor/Getty Images)

Like many major movements in the United States, young people were instrumental in driving change to laws that were considered unjust or outdated.

Duncan is calling for a national boycott of schools until new gun control measures are put in place. He told theGrio exclusively that such a boycott would be “complicated” and a “massive sacrifice,” however, “sometimes it takes young people just like in the civil rights movement” to bring needed change.

“What if children around middle school, elementary, high school … said they refused to go to school until not just our school, but our community, is safe?” he queried. 

As the nation is coming to grips with this latest school shooting, Education Week, which tracks the number of shootings in the nation’s schoolhouses, found that the Covenant School tragedy marks the nation’s 13th school shooting in 2023.

Monday’s shooting was also the deadliest school shooting at a kindergarten through 12th-grade school since May 2022, when an 18-year-old former student shot and killed 19 students and two teachers at a Uvalde, Texas, elementary school. The one-year anniversary of the Uvalde school shooting is closely approaching.

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