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Pittenger’s Weekly Column

Rep. Robert Pittenger

Should a school principal be disciplined for discussing the positive aspects of firearms with students? As part of a quality education, students should be encouraged to voice their concerns and participate in America’s unique, open political system.  However, recent incidents here in North Carolina indicate that when the topic is gun control, only one viewpoint is welcome on campus.
At Collinswood Language Academy in Charlotte, the principal recently approached students participating in a gun control walkout and began discussing her love for shooting clay pigeons. 

She discussed how as a high school student, her friends would go hunting in the morning, leave their guns in the school parking lot during the day, and “it wasn’t a problem.  And we weren’t worried about the safety.”

How did Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools react?  “Appropriate actions have and will be taken to address concerns regarding this incident.”

Incident?  An educator shared a different viewpoint with her students and encouraged them to get to know her.  Quick! Call the thought police. Meanwhile, an English teacher at Butler High School in Matthews gave tips to her students on how to be anti-gun activists.  “We want them to actually do something,” she explained to WBT radio.  There have been no reports of any pushback from the school system.

Whether or not we agree with the policy goals of recent student protests, we should be supportive of their freedom of speech.  We should listen to their very real concerns about school safety, and we should be grateful that the next generation is starting to get involved in America’s messy but successful system of government. However, these and other incidents imply attempted political indoctrination of students in our public schools.  Education should be about learning, not politics or ideology. Over the past month, I have received reports from local parents that they were not notified of school-sanctioned anti-gun protests, that students who chose to opt-out were nonetheless forced to attend, and that high-level administrators helped plan the events. In response, I am leading a Congressional letter to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos asking if her department is aware of any similar incidents across the country, if the Department of Education will investigate, and if the Department of Education has a mechanism to receive complaints related to political agendas being pushed on students. My goal is to ensure that students have the freedom to express and engage with different viewpoints, rather than being forced to comply with politically correct ideology.

The principal from Charlotte is correct.  Previous generations of students brought weapons to school with no problems.  Many high schools had shooting clubs or even an on-campus shooting range. Guns aren’t the problem.  Sadly, we have allowed a culture of violence to permeate America through the abortion industry, video games, movies, music, and television.  We continue to watch as the media feeds our country a steady stream of glorified violence.  We have officially removed prayer from schools and we have become a society governed by relativism.  Now we are dealing with the adverse circumstances. To be clear, laws are necessary for an orderly society.  As your Member of Congress, I take seriously my responsibility to ensure laws are appropriately updated and funding is provided to prevent school shootings.

For example, in March I helped pass the bipartisan STOP School Violence Act (H.R. 4909), which provides funding for specialized training to help spot warning signs and prevent school violence.  This legislation also funds technology to keep students safe and crisis intervention teams. While this was an important step, we must remember that laws can’t prevent all tragedies.  Laws can’t impact the human heart. That’s why we must ensure schools remain truly open to a free exchange of ideas.  We need more pastors and compassionate community volunteers to have the freedom to engage with local students, sharing the vital concepts of values and ethics. Only when our nation regains its moral footing will our children truly be safe.

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