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California Department of Education
Official Letter
California Department of Education
Official Letter
March 8, 2018

Open Letter to President Donald Trump:

Keep Guns Out of the Classroom: Allow Teachers to Teach

As California Teachers of the Year and the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, our focus is on our students, our classrooms, and education policy.

Now, however, we must talk about another topic: guns.

We can no longer remain silent while students, teachers, and classified employees are slain on school campuses with assault weapons designed for combat. Since Columbine took place nearly 20 years ago, we have witnessed tragedy after tragedy with no significant changes in our national gun laws.

The mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida on February 14, 2018, took the lives of 14 students and three teachers while injuring dozens of others. It has fueled fear in classrooms across our nation.

It was the latest terrible incident. We want to make it the last.

There are many ways to reduce the chances of this happening again. But, President Trump, arming teachers is not one of them.

We do not need guns in the classroom. We need more mental health services, smaller class sizes, more counselors, more nurses, and more training in how to effectively deal with students in crisis.

In addition, we must upgrade school safety procedures and cooperate closely with law enforcement to investigate threats.

Adding guns to the classroom would add fear and anxiety to what should be a safe learning environment. Teachers should focus on helping students, not marksmanship and police work. Students should never have to wonder where a gun is hidden or worry that a teacher might make a mistake and shoot them.

Talk of arming teachers and putting more guns in the classroom distracts us from some of the root causes of school gun violence—the proliferation of assault-style weapons and inadequate mental health services.The AR-15, an assault weapon, is popular among gun enthusiasts. But is the right to a favorite gun worth the lives of our children when so many other guns are available for recreation and for self-defense? Clearly, it is not.

Military-style assault weapons should be banned. Pure and simple. Raising the age for purchasing these guns, while a step in the right direction, is inadequate.

We encourage more states and the nation as a whole, to follow California’s lead as the state with the strongest gun control laws. But even California needs to go further by banning AR-15s and other assault weapons.

The nation and other states should ban bump stocks, close gun registration loopholes, limit the ammunition capacity of high-powered rifles to 10 rounds, and institute universal background checks, especially for people with past or current mental health issues.

They should also follow California’s example by creating gun violence restraining orders, also known as Red Flag Laws, which allow immediate family members and police to ask a judge to remove guns and ammunition from a relative who poses a threat. States should also consider expanding the list of who can request gun restraining orders.

We join the brave student advocates from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in demanding stricter national gun laws. To show our support, many of us plan to attend the “March for Our Lives” events in cities around California on March 24, 2018, and in Washington, D.C.

The trauma, pain, and suffering for the survivors of mass shooting is terrible and lasts a lifetime. The loss of life is stunning. Dreams ended. Communities shattered. Columbine. Newtown. Parkland. So many of our students, parents, and educators are wondering who will be next.

Mr. President, we call on you to help enact policies that will make our schools, our classrooms, and our students safe. We dream of the time when schools are so safe that the State Superintendent of Public Instruction and the California Teachers of the Year do not have to talk about guns, but can focus entirely on education and teaching our children.


Tom Torlakson
State Superintendent of Public Instruction

California Teachers of the Year:

  • Mary Allan, 2001
  • Mitch Bahr, 2016
  • Patricia Ann Baltz, 1993
  • Scott Bedley, 2014
  • Anne Marie Bergen, 2003
  • Carol Brouhle, 2002
  • Ginger Brown, 1998
  • Jaime Yumiko Brown, 2018
  • Shannan Brown, 2011
  • Amber Carrow/Kaura, 2010
  • Beth Cassford, 1994
  • Lewis Chappelear, 2008
  • Jenny Chien, 2017
  • Tom Collett, 2012
  • Sebastien P. DeClerck, 2013
  • Kirsten Farrell, 2018
  • Carole Firestone, 1997
  • Greg Gardiner, 2018
  • Mary E. Geer, 2002
  • David Goldenberg, 2013
  • Doug Green, 2016
  • Megan Gross, 2017
  • Michael Hayden, 2014
  • Shari Herout, 2012
  • Linda Horist, 2014
  • Dawn Imamoto-Yamaguchi, 2004
  • Alastair Inman, 2009
  • Daniel Jocz, 2016
  • James Jordan, 2003
  • Dennis Jory, 1993
  • Alex Kajitani, 2009
  • Kelly Kovacic, 2010
  • Kim Labinger, 2005
  • Isela Lieber, 2017
  • Maggie J Mabery, 2015
  • Kathy Marvin, 2010
  • Brian McDaniel, 2018
  • Rebecca Mieliwocki, 2012
  • Chris Mullin, 2003
  • Stan Murphy, 2005
  • Karen O'Connor, 2000
  • Erin Oxhorn-Gilpin, 2018
  • Jessica Pack, 2014
  • Helen Papadopoulos, 2007
  • Ann Park, 2016
  • Adele M. Prince, 2000
  • Tammy Reina, 2008
  • Martin Reisert, 2013
  • Charles Reynes, 2007
  • Zenaida Rosario, 2004
  • Erin Rosselli, 2015
  • Alan Siegel, 2005
  • Tim Smith, 2014
  • Dalynn Smith-Malek, 2001
  • Melanie Karaffa Tolan, 2010
  • Kami Tomberlain, 2000
  • Corrie Traynor, 2017
  • Verónica Vega, 2013
  • I’asha Warfield, 2012
  • Loredana Wicketts, 2009
  • Ray Williams, 2005
  • Valerie Ziegler, 2010
Last Reviewed: Friday, September 27, 2019

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