Facebook Live: Teens talk about Parkland shooting’s impact, gun violence

Call them Generation Parkland.

Though they were miles from the gunfire that killed 17 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School four months ago, they have been changed by it nonetheless.

“People are still devastated by these events,” said Donyea James, who just finished her junior year at American Heritage Boca/Delray High School. “It’s always on your mind: ‘What if it happens at my school? What if it would happen if I’m outside, or if I was the bathroom?'”

After the shootings, Keyiela Wilborn said she began checking on friends’ and classmates’ moods. The Palm Beach Lakes High school senior was looking for signs of possibly dangerous disquiet and encouraging them to talk if things are getting them down.

“It’s hard after these events to look at people the exact same way as you did before,” said Wendon Roberts of Spanish River High School. “But instead of thinking, ‘Oh, he’s being weird, I just better stay away from him,’ you have to think of it as, ‘Maybe this person really needs help.’ And that can stop a lot of these problems.”

Six teenagers, referred by the Urban League of Palm Beach County, talked with Rick Christie, editor of the Palm Beach Post Editorial Page, about the impact of gun violence in their communities and on their psyches. The Wednesday evening discussion was broadcast on Facebook Live.

The mass shooting at the Broward County high school spurred activism in the Palm Beach County students: they marched, held vigils, started organizations. “You want to do something not just to raise awareness, but to make a change,” James said.

Sterling Shipp and a friend had started a political science social group in the fall at Palm Beach Gardens High School. After Parkland, gun violence was the subject of every meeting. Attendance swelled. Even teachers came.

“It allowed us to have open dialogue,” Shipp said. “A lot of students came out, because they’re passionate about this.”

Gun violence hit close to home in other ways.

Wilborn said that, growing up in West Palm Beach and having relatives in Miami, “we hear about shootings all the time.” She knew a boy, “a wonderful kid, football player,” shot to death about a year and a half ago.

Roberts said that a classmate in 6th grade named Eduardo was killed along with his mother and brother in a domestic-violence shooting.

Christian Morales, just graduated from Suncoast High School, said a close friend and classmate named Brandon was shot and wounded in a drive-by while going for a walk with his brother.

Watch here:

Christie: Are the Parkland shooting teens fair game for conservative critics?

Emma Gonzalez, center, and the other student activists from Parkland cheer on stage at the end of the March for Our Lives rally in Washington. The attacks on the teenage survivors of the shooting have been fierce from the beginning, and have only continued since the students helped spearhead hundreds of protests last month. (Erin Schaff/The New York Times)

It’s been a month and half since the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that left 17 students and school personnel dead at the hands of 19-year-old gunman Nikolas Cruz.

RELATED: Depression is setting in, concerned Parkland students say at town hall

Thanks to the outspokenness and energy of surviving students like David Hogg and Emma Gonzalez, the tragic shooting has sparked a movement against gun violence and for common-sense gun control laws. The constant rhetoric, rallies and TV appearances of Parkland shooting survivors moved a previously immovable Florida Legislature to enact in three weeks what it had refused to do in nearly three decades: stricter gun controls.

Though state lawmakers still have more work to do, long-time Tallahassee political observers marveled at what these well-spoken, impatient teens have already been able to accomplish.

RELATED: POINT OF VIEW: Politicians, put yourselves in Parkland survivors’ shoes

But those efforts, and the teens’ further demands for more stricter gun controls, have put them squarely in the sights of the powerful gun lobby led by the influential National Rifle Association.

As a result, they’ve been attacked repeatedly by regular folks, politicians, celebrities and even law-enforcement officers on radio, TV and in social media.

Fox News host Laura Ingraham apologized under pressure last week for taunting a survivor of the school shooting in Parkland as several companies confirmed they would pull advertising from her show. (Laura Segall/The New York Times)

Most recently:

  • Fox News host and conservative firebrand Laura Ingraham was forced to take a week off from her show after she was pilloried for criticizing Hogg on Twitter after he talked about his difficulties getting into the University of California.
  • Artist and musician Frank Stallone  was forced to apologize after a profanity-laced criticism of the Parkland survivors over the weekend.
Ted Nugent (Photo by Owen Sweeney/Invision/AP, File)

But rocker and NRA board member Ted Nugent has been unapologetic. Nugent, who began his attack of the Parkland teens over the weekend, doubled down on WABC’s Curtis + Cosby show on Monday.

“(David Hogg) has been brainwashed, it’s tragic,” Nugent said. “I don’t think the guy can be fixed. … This guy is a lost cause. He is consumed with hate. He is part of the problem, not the solution.”

Nugent also said Hogg and the Douglas High School students are “not very educated” and “wouldn’t know an AR-15 from a pterodactyl.”

Pro-gun supporters and others argue that the teens stepped into a serious grown-up issue and thus relinquished the right to be treated with kid gloves. If you dance to the music, you’ve got to pay the piper, they say.

Sign up for The Palm Beach Post weekly Opinion newsletter: Pbpo.st/opinionsignup

But what do you think?

Do you agree with the criticisms being leveled against the student survivors of the Douglas High School shooting by right wing and NRA supporters? Or should there be a hands-off approach to these outspoken teens who suffered an unimaginable tragedy?

Take poll here:

Goodman: Rubio destroyed his own argument against gun control (Does he realize it?)

Marjory Stoneman Douglas student Cameron Kasky asks Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), right, if he will continue to accept money from the NRA during a CNN town hall meeting on Wednesday at the BB&T Center. (Michael Laughlin/Sun Sentinel/TNS)

Marco Rubio provided much of the drama at Wednesday night’s remarkable town hall on gun violence.

First, simply by showing up in blue Broward County, and to face hundreds of grieving teenage survivors of the Parkland school shooting and their traumatized friends and parents.

There was the moment when Fred Guttenberg, who lost his 14-year-old daughter Jaime in the slaughter, told him: “Your comments this week, and those of our president, have been pathetically weak.”

The moment when student Cameron Kasky asked Rubio to refuse accepting any more money from the National Rifle Association (NRA) — and, perhaps mentally flashing on the $3.3 million he got from NRA in 2016, Rubio said no. “The answer to the question is that people buy into my agenda.”

But to me, the most important moment came when Chris Grady, a Douglas High senior, asked Rubio, “Would you agree that there is no place in our society for large capacity magazines capable of firing off — over — from 15 to 30 rounds and if not more?”

And Rubio said that “after this and some of the details I learned about it, I’m reconsidering that position, and I’ll tell you why… Because while it may not prevent an attack, it may save lives in an attack.”

With fewer bullets for the killer to fire, “three or four people might be alive today.”

“It wouldn’t have prevented the attack but it made it less lethal,” Rubio said.

Bingo! That’s exactly what people who urge banning semiautomatic weapons are saying.

Nothing is going to eliminate all gun deaths in America. And nothing is going to completely keep demented people from getting hold of firearms. But we can at least limit those guns’ lethality.

Guns like the AR-15, which fire with such force that they left victims of the Parkland school shooting “with only shreds of the organ that had been hit by a bullet,” an emergency room radiologist tells us, via The Atlantic. “There was nothing left to repair.”

If you see the logic of making gun cartridges less lethal, then you must see the logic of  making guns themselves less lethal.

Rubio, possibly without knowing it, destroyed his own longstanding argument. The day after the Parkland shooting, Rubio took to the Senate floor to say gun-control measures don’t work. “Whether it is a political assassination of one person or the mass killing of many, if one person decides to do it and they are committed to that task, it is a very difficult thing to stop,” he said, before adding, “that does not mean we should not try to prevent as many of them as we can.”

Yes, stopping a determined killer is a hard thing to do. But once you’ve allowed that the lethality of the instrument is the determining factor in whether something should or shouldn’t be lawful, then why not be consistent? Why not concede that we should be making it much harder for would-be killers to get their hands on armaments that are essentially weapons of war?

Rubio should be applauded for changing his mind on high-capacity ammo magazines. It should be a short step to changing his mind on assault weapons, period.

Take it, Senator.

Christie: Parkland students getting a hard lesson about #thoughtsandprayers in Tallahassee

Buses pick up the kids to take them back to West Boca. West Boca High School students walked to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. (Melanie Bell / The Palm Beach Post)

In the immediate aftermath of last week’s mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the Palm Beach Post Editorial Board quickly published an emotionally raw piece aimed at political leaders’ typically empty statements following such a tragedy.

The editorial focused specifically on the well-worn, “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of this tragic shooting,” or something to that effect. From the White House to the U.S. Senate to the Florida Governors Mansion, the tweets came fast and furious.

Feeling much the same emotion, the Editorial Board told them, “With all due respect, save it.” What we need is action, not thoughts and prayers.

RELATED: Scott holds Parkland shooting meetings; House rejects assault gun ban

Well, in the ensuing week, the Editorial Board was criticized by a handful but lauded by many for saying, as one reader put it, “what needed to be said.” And it appears that sentiment has become part of the anthem of Stoneman Douglas High students as they’ve made their way to Tallahassee to meet with state lawmakers today.

Sarah Lopez, a tenth grade West Boca High School student who walked to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland on Tuesday cries as she stands in front of a memorial. She said it took her 4 hours to walk there and “there was nothing to compare to the feeling that you can change things”. (Melanie Bell / The Palm Beach Post)

They will rightly demand action. But as the House of Representatives showed them on Tuesday, they likely won’t get the action they want. The chamber, by a resounding 71-36 vote, said “no” to even discussing a proposed bill to ban the deadly AR-15 military-style assault weapon reportedly used by 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz to kill 17 people at Stoneman Douglas High on Feb. 14.

But whether the students are successful at turning a Legislature that is culturally and financially in sync with the gun lobby is not the point.

This is an eye-opening experience for them (and the parents of the state’s other 2.8 million students) about how Florida politics works. This is better than anything they could have learned in a Civics class. And what matters is what they do with this experience. Starting today.

Following is the Post’s Feb. 15 editorial in its entirety:

Editorial: Thoughts and prayers won’t stop these mass shootings

Save the thoughts and prayers. We need action. Now.

There was another mass shooting in the United States Wednesday afternoon. This one was at a school. The 18th shooting at a school this year, a year that is not yet 7 weeks old, according to Everytown for Gun Safety.

Law enforcement authorities said 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, a former student, terrorized Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland and shot and killed 17 people, according to the Broward Sheriff’s Office. Cruz, who was apparently expelled from the high school last year, is in police custody. But why he committed this heinous act is still a mystery.

It could have been far worse if not for the textbook way in which law enforcement — including Parkland Police and Coconut Creek — handled this horrific incident, according to various experts. That was likely due to the sad fact that police nationwide have run this drill so many times since Columbine and Sandy Hook.

On Wednesday, as then, our political leaders were quick to send their thoughts and prayers to everyone involved.

Gov. Rick Scott tweeted: “Just spoke with @POTUS about shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. My thoughts and prayers are with the students, their families and the entire community. We will continue to receive briefings from law enforcement and issue updates.”

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam tweeted: “Prayers for all the students, teachers and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High. And to our first responders, be safe and godspeed.”

Attorney General Pam Bondi said in a statement: “Praying for everyone involved in today’s shooting … I am on the way with my victim advocates and we will be available in full force to help all victims and their families with any services they need.”

With all due respect, save it.

What these grieving parents and students need is for you to finally enact some common-sense gun control legislation, rather than continuing to loosen gun laws and make these terrible shootings more likely.

You can stop trying to allow guns on Florida school and college campuses. You can stop gutting the state’s concealed weapons laws. You can pony up the money for more school police.

No fewer than 150,000 American public school students have gone through one of these tragedies. Even if they weren’t physically wounded, they now carry the psychological scars of watching a classmate bleed out in front of them.

“I thought this was a drill we were supposed to have,” teacher Melissa Fallowski, told CNN’s Jake Tapper, her voice still shaking. “Society failed us today.”

Yes. Yes, it did.

Crosses and flowers hang on a fence outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland on Friday in memory of the 17 people killed in a shooting. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

Reader Point of View: Broward school shooting lifts suburban affluence’s veil of safety

A father kisses his daughter after a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland on Wednesday. (Greg Lovett / The Palm Beach Post)

As grieving parents, and former classmates and colleagues of those who died during Wednesday’s mass shooting at Majory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland struggle with the aftermath of the horrific event, dozens of Palm Beach Post readers have been weighing in with their thoughts.

One that stood out was a Letter to the Editor from a former long-time guidance counselor at the suburban Broward County high school who wanted to point up how the shooting shows that even supposedly safe, affluent schools struggle with students who have mental health issues.

And that’s why more financial resources are needed at Florida public schools to deal with this issue.

Following is the letter from Robert Kenner, who now lives in Ponte Vedra Beach, in its entirety:

This is my first letter to a newspaper. But in the wake of this week’s tragic shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, I’m motivated to share my thoughts and feelings.

I retired two years ago as a Broward County guidance counselor who worked my last 6-1/2 years at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. I am distraught over the carnage in my old school, but I’m not surprised. The commentators on television are oblivious to the immense stressors on our schoolkids, and the paucity of mental health resources they are offered.

My first five years at Stoneman Douglas High, my caseload was 800 students. My last year-and-a-half. my caseload was lower, but was still more than over 600 students. In addition, I was responsible for doing time-consuming Individual Education Plans (IEPs).

The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) recommends a student-to-counselor ratio of 250:1. When I retired, we had five full-time guidance counselors and a (supervisory) Director for a student population of about 3,400.

The reason for the lack of master’s-degree level guidance counselor services was always budgetary. We guidance counselors, and our fellow teachers, administrators, social workers and family therapists did the very best we could sincerely do caring for each of our kids. But unless the funding paradigm for our public schools — and society, overall — embrace community mental health, we are missing the message that underlies our societal tragedies.

Yes, Stoneman Douglas High is a great school with terrific kids, and school staff that epitomizes excellence. However, it has not been immune from tragedy. When I was there, we had three suicides in a period of a year-and-a-half. These tragedies led me to write a brochure titled, “The Psychological Challenges of Affluence,” which I hoped would open parents’ minds to monitoring their kid’s mental health and the value of seeking therapeutic assistance when needed.

For example, the brochure points out: “Suburban, affluent youth are not seen as being at-risk, but they are; affluence does not guarantee emotional and mental health.”

Indeed, no public school or community is immune to mental health issues. We need to provide more mental health support for all of our students.

Editor’s note: Share your thoughts about this op-ed in the Comments section.