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Where Are the Student Voices in the Gun Control Debate?

In the wake of Newtown, students are upping the fight against racial injustice in school discipline.

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“Teachers have to learn not to look down upon us because of our color, and need to push the movement forward with us,” Aguilar says. “They tell us, 'we love what you’re doing,’ instead of helping out.”

The nation’s two major teachers unions, the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, have openly embraced Obama’s gun control proposals, including the item on funding for school police. Speaking on KPFA radio on Saturday, AFT president Randi Weingarten acknowledged the issues with police presence in schools, but ultimately spoke in favor of it. “We actually have to have a real balance here, and I think the president got there by saying, if a community actually wants more of a police presence, then there will be some funding for that,” she said. This funding, she continued, is similar in kind to Obama’s voluntary supports for counselors and social workers.

But who speaks for the “community”? State receivers like Philadelphia’s School Reform Commission? Cop-friendly districts like LA’s? Anyone who isn’t a student—or constantly listening to students—is bound to have an incomplete perspective on school safety, especially for students of color. While it’s easy to shoot down platitudes from groups like the NRA, the Newtown massacre should push us to start listening to those who know students best—the students themselves.

James Cersonsky is a Philadelphia-based writer and activist. Follow him on Twitter: @cersonsky.