The student-led mass protests fueled by a school shooting in Parkland, Fla., are wrapping up. But students in the Charlotte area and across America have vowed not to let up on pressure to make their schools safer.
The timing couldn't be better for students in Mecklenburg County and across North Carolina who want to make a difference.
Civic activism requires some new skills and a lot of persistence. Here are some tips and connections to make that easier.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools has just rolled out a budget that includes millions to fortify buildings, add school police officers and expand the ranks of school counselors, social workers and psychologists. The school board will hold a public hearing on that plan next week before a May 8 vote. Then it goes to Mecklenburg County Commissioners, who will hold a June 4 hearing before voting later that month.
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A new CMS website, OurKidsNeedUs.org, offers dates, details, an easy way to provide feedback and even a link to the 300-page detailed budget. Students can bring unique insights to CMS leaders, who will shape the details of safety policies, and county commissioners, who decide how much money to provide.
North Carolina's General Assembly convenes May 16, and school safety is sure to be high on the agenda.
The bad news is: Keeping up with Raleigh politics is really tough, even for the pros.
The good news is there are resources to help. Click here to get legislative updates from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. The Public School Forum of North Carolina also offers weekly updates on legislative action; click here for the group's Friday Reports. And Charles Jeter, a former state representative who works for CMS, sends weekly "JeterGrams" with updates from the district's point of view; email email@example.com to be added to his mailing list.
It can also be helpful to check different perspectives on emerging issues. NC Policy Watch offers reporting from the left, while the John Locke Foundation analyzes North Carolina issues from the right. Both include a focus on education.
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Youth Council, created by a nonprofit youth civics organization, offers students from district, charter and private high schools a chance to work together on making their voices heard. Student members have been invited to work with the state's House panel on school safety over the summer, and local leaders often meet in Charlotte with teens.
When it comes to individual lobbying, it's helpful to know who represents you. Mecklenburg County offers a great GeoPortal tool: Click here, enter your address and select "voting" (the check-mark icon) to get the names of your federal, state and local representatives. Then you can look up contact information for U.S. senators and representatives, state legislators, county commissioners and school board members.
Of course there will still be all sorts of national activism, social media sharing and online petitions to sign. But as the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High have demonstrated so well, the power of young voices telling their own stories face to face can be among the most powerful tools for change.