Obama-era education secretary Arne Duncan urged a gathering of Parkland parents in Broward County to keep their children home from school until Congress passes national gun control laws.
“I think America doesn’t care enough,” Duncan said, reports the Sun Sentinel. “If America cared, it would vote on this issue.”
According to the news report, Duncan said his plan is “intentionally provocative” but not unlike the bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama, that was promoted by Martin Luther King Jr. and that brought change to national policy regarding segregation on buses.
“This is a made-in-America problem,” Duncan said. “It happens because we allow it to happen.”
Duncan spoke to some 50 parents from Parkland Tuesday, where confessed shooter Nikolas Cruz killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February. He was reportedly invited to the forum by Gail Schwartz, aunt of Alex Schacter, 14, who was killed in the shooting massacre.
This is why we need to do something about gun violence in American schools. A school boycott will motivate Americans to get to the polls and vote for gun safety. @arneduncan @PCunningham57 https://t.co/eyziWDZmKf
— Gail Schwartz (@gailbarb1) July 19, 2018
“It will only work if we get the whole country involved,” Schwartz said of the proposed boycott. “What we need to do is get the whole country enthused about the idea and I think Secretary Duncan can help us do that.”
The gathering’s leaders insisted the boycott be student-led and activated prior to the midterm elections in November, reports the Sentinel.
The former education chief from 2009 to 2015 was joined by his former colleague at the department Peter Cunningham in calling for a national boycott of public schools. Cunningham sparked the idea in May with a tweet:
Maybe it's time for America's 50 million school parents to simply pull their kids out of school until we have better gun laws.https://t.co/JCBYstcHEA
— Peter Cunningham (@PCunningham57) May 18, 2018
Duncan replied by tweeting:
This is brilliant, and tragically necessary.
What if no children went to school until gun laws changed to keep them safe?
My family is all in if we can do this at scale.
Parents, will you please join us? https://t.co/Yo4wsFuJI5
— Arne Duncan (@arneduncan) May 18, 2018
Though Broward school district officials initially did not admit Cruz had been referred to its PROMISE program – a social justice program that likely served as an inspiration for the Obama administration’s national school discipline policy aimed at ending the “school to prison pipeline” – it was discovered Cruz failed to show up for the program while in middle school after being sent there following his vandalism of a school bathroom.
Cruz has a lengthy history of violence, assaults, and threats, but avoided arrest.
The PROMISE program was launched by Broward superintendent Robert Runcie, who had worked in Chicago for Duncan. Ultimately, the Obama administration coerced school districts into allowing behavior by minority students that normally would have resulted in suspension, expulsion, or arrest to go unreported. Districts were threatened with the possibility of federal investigation and loss of funding if their statistics showed disproportionately more minority students arrested and suspended.
The program in Broward County allows eligible students belonging to certain minority groups who commit any of 13 misdemeanors at school to avoid suspension, expulsion, and arrest. Instead, these students receive “restorative justice” counseling in “talking circles” and other forms of therapy.
The PROMISE collaborative agreement justifies the special treatment for these students by specifically mentioning that “students of color, students with disabilities and LGBTQ students are disproportionately impacted by school-based arrests for the same behavior as their peers.”