Smith College holds events around gun violence

  • Left, Sophia Simmons and Grace Tavu listen to speakers during a rally in support of ending school violence at Smith College Thursday afternoon. —CAROL LOLLIS

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    Lily Prendergast fills out a card handed out during a rally in support of ending school violence at Smith College Thursday afternoon. The cards say, "I stand with those organizes against violence because....." —CAROL LOLLIS

  • Georgianna Duke, a Smith College student, speaks emotionally during a rally Thursday in support of ending school violence. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Rev. Matilda Rose Cantwell, the director of Religious and spiritual life and the college Chaplin, speaks during a rally in support of ending school violence at Smith College Thursday afternoon. —CAROL LOLLIS

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    Lily Prendergast and Katrina Kuo fill out cards handed out during a rally in support of ending school violence at Smith College Thursday afternoon. The cards say, "I stand with those organizes against violence because....." —CAROL LOLLIS

  • Smith College student Yacine Fall fills out a card handed out during a rally in support of ending school violence, Thursday afternoon, at Smith College. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

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    Yacine Fall, a Smith College student, fills out a card handed out during a rally in support of ending school violence at Smith College Thursday afternoon. The cards say, "I stand with those organizes against violence because....." —CAROL LOLLIS

  • Yacine Fall, middle, listens to a speaker during a rally in support of ending school violence at Smith College Thursday afternoon. —CAROL LOLLIS

  • Left, Sophia Simmons and Grace Tavu, sit with others and listen to speakers during a rally in support of ending school violence at Smith College Thursday afternoon. —CAROL LOLLIS

  • Brianna Barrett, a Smith College student, speaks about her frustration with the lack of support and blame placed on mental health issues during a rally in support of ending school violence at Smith College Thursday afternoon. —CAROL LOLLIS

@BeraDunau
Published: 3/22/2018 11:59:09 PM

NORTHAMPTON – Smith College made sure its voice was heard in the national conversation on gun violence Thursday, with a noontime rally and a panel discussion on violence prevention in the afternoon.

“Students are the leaders of this movement,” said Smith College President Kathleen McCartney, in a media release prior to the event. “We want to provide a platform for their voices, to host informative discussions, and to provide ways for those on our campuses to share their views with elected representatives.”

The rally featured multiple student speakers on the topic, including two high school students from Springfield.

Smith spokeswoman Stacey Schmeidel estimated that between 100 and 200 people showed up for the rally. She said the day’s events were organized by a committee of people headed by the president’s office and the office of religious and spiritual life. Schmeidel said that the day’s events were designed to amplify the voices of high school students, and give Smith students the opportunity to help in this effort.

The rally was followed by a panel discussion at 4:30 p.m., where a panel of educators and social work specialists talked about how violence of different types is interconnected, and how people can work to prevent it.

Marianne Yoshioka, dean of the Smith School of Social Work, noted that school shootings are still, relatively speaking, infrequent, noting that 2 percent of homicides of children happen in schools. She also said that school violence occurs in a larger social context.

“Our schools are part of our communities,” she said.

Yoshioka said school shootings can have an impact on those who are not directly affected by the violence as well, and that knowing people care about them and want them to recover is an important way that people can get better.

Victoria Banyard, of the University of New Hampshire, noted the eloquence of the speakers at the rally. She said her interest is in “actionism” — what motivates people to step in and intervene in a situation. She said the students in Parkland are examples of “actionists.”

“I think young people are challenging us as adults,” she said, expressing support for listening to the voices of youth in violence prevention.

Anne Gilligan, of the Massachusetts Department of Education, talked about preparing school communities to respond to violence, both in the prevention and the recovery sense.

“They’re all families,” she said, speaking of schools.

In the question-and-answer session, Jodi Shaw, parent of an elementary school student, talked about how some students at Jackson Street School in Northampton had also participated in last week’s school walkout, and asked how younger children could be educated about issues like the Parkland shooting.

Speaking after the event, Shaw said she is supportive of student activist efforts, but noted that her third-grade son learned about the shooting from a student for the first time at the walkout. She said this motivated her to learn how to talk to children about these issues in an age-appropriate manner.

Megan Harding, of the School of Social Work, moderated the event. Speaking after the event, she expressed approval of the movement against school violence led by young people, and said the conversations and activism in the movement should also have a lens of racial justice.

In her remarks on the panel, Yoshioka said that while school shootings primarily target and are committed by white students, the homicide rate for black children is 10 times higher than it is for whites.

As part of the day’s activities, phone banking to contact state and federal officials was also held in the Campus Center TV Lounge, and a debriefing and decompression event was held at the Helen Hills Hills Chapel.

The college will also be providing buses for Smith students on Saturday for the March For Our Lives event in Boston.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.


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