When most of us harken back to our days spent in school, we recall a time when life was a little simpler. I remember the joy that learning brought to me, and the teachers and peers who had such a profound influence on my life.
But thinking back has brought many of us, myself included, to a painful realization. This current generation of students has grown up in a world where violent acts of terror in our schools have always been a risk. Active shooter drills are scheduled right alongside tornado and fire drills as part of the normal school calendar.
This is a tough pill to swallow.
Despite what you might hear about this generation, when I talk to our kids, they give me tremendous hope for our future. What we've seen on the news and in our social media feeds in the last couple weeks — it's the kind of passion, poise and leadership I see every time I'm in a school. These kids, whether they're from Florida or Wisconsin, are leading the nation in a critical discussion about school safety.
Our students are engaged, articulate and passionate about change. They're working together with adults to build a better world. They're taking part in the democratic process and demonstrating the importance of civic activity. And up in Somerset, there's a young man engineering safety solutions designed to protect his peers.
According to USA Today, high school senior Justin Rivard invented a door stop made of steel plates and connecting rods to jam doors shut; when put to the test, even linemen on the Somerset High School football team couldn't get through the door. Rivard calls the tool the "JustinKase."
Importantly, students not alone. Alongside those kids are their educators. Educators who are again being called upon to the thread the needle on a matter of great difficulty. And as always, they're rising to the occasion to support their students.
Despite the impressive display of leadership from our kids, we are without any substantive change in school-based gun violence. I refuse to believe the only answer to this troubling trend is arming our teachers or turning our schools into reverse-engineered prisons.
We cannot afford to fail another generation with our bickering and finger-pointing. Instead, let's listen to the emerging experts on this subject — our young people.
Tony Evers is state superintendent of the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.