Gun Resolution Passed at FCPS School Board Meeting


Photo of the crowd taken by H. Drembus

In response to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting on February 14, FCPS discussed gun violence at the school board meeting on February 22. The superintendent and school board members discussed the issue of gun violence in American schools and security measures that FCPS can take to ensure safety for their students. This issue is especially tied to education due to the danger it poses to students and the gun control movement #NeverAgain being led by Stoneman Douglas student survivors.

School board member Ryan McElveen proposed a gun resolution that was unanimously passed: “Therefore it be resolved that Fairfax County School Board calls upon the United States Congress and state legislatures, including the Virginia General Assembly, to prioritize the protection of students and school system employees by passing legislation that more effectively regulates access to firearms in the interest of public safety, funds public-health research on firearm-related issues, and advances mental health supports.” The full resolution is available on McElveen’s twitter account, @RyanLMcElveen.

West Potomac senior Henry Drembus and his father David Drembus attended the meeting.

“All the auditorium seats were filled with students, parents, and other concerned citizens who had heard about the resolution that Ryan McElveen was going to put forth,” D. Drembus said in an email interview. “The crowd was energized.”

The meeting was not held to solely address the issue of gun violence–they were also discussing National Social Worker Month, the 100th anniversary of the Fairfax County NAACP, and other items.

“After the gun violence resolution section there were a lot of other things going on, but I think the reason so many people showed up was that Ryan McElveen was proposing this resolution on gun violence prevention,” H. Drembus said.

A large portion of the crowd was made up of FCPS students. D. Drembus was motivated to attend by his 17-year-old son.

“Henry was really the one who wanted to attend,” he said. “He feels very strongly about common-sense gun control in the wake of the Parkland shooting, and he has been eager to find ways to take action. I tagged along mostly to support him.”

H. Drembus was set on attending the meeting, despite the 45 minute drive to Luther Jackson Middle School.

“I decided to go because I think the most important step for me going forward with how much I want to stay determined in improving the gun culture is to stay informed, first of all, and to understand what the people in my immediate community are doing so that I can better understand what we can do on a more national level,” he said.

D. Drembus is very concerned with the issue of gun violence, but trusts West Potomac’s safety systems.

“Part of being a parent is always being worried about your kids,” he said. “That said, I know the West Potomac administration and staff take this seriously and do a terrific job keeping the students safe. I’m really much more concerned about this issue on the national level than I am about it happening at any one school.”

Nevertheless, FCPS wants to improve their security as best they can in the wake of these events.

“Mr. McElveen read the resolution and each of the members of the school board gave a short speech about why they supported it,” H. Drembus summarized. “Some of them thought of other things that they could start to do to think about security specifically for FCPS.”

Something that brings this issue closer to home is the surge of student walkouts happening all over the county. West Potomac students walked out at 12:00 on February 21 and gathered on the stadium field for 17 minutes to honor the Parkland victims. In a Facebook post, McElveen said, “In Fairfax County Public Schools, students have the right to freedom of expression through speech, assembly, petition, and other lawful means, and the right to advocate for change.” FCPS’ tolerant policy that allows for walkouts is in contrast to some school systems around the country, such as Needville, TX, which threatens suspension for any student participating.

“I’m in favor of thoughtful, non-violent protests, and I’m especially for it when teenagers are engaged civically with an issue that they believe in and when they can see the power of working together to achieve something,” D. Drembus said in response to the walkouts.

H. Drembus feels that this largely student-led movement will have a lasting impact.

“Mr. McElveen ended his speech last night with a quote from Margaret Mead. She said, ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has,’” he quoted. “I think that the age of this doesn’t matter as long as we stay determined.

D. Drembus agreed that the teenagers spearheading the #NeverAgain movement have the ability to make change happen.

“These days, with all the social media, teens have real opportunities to be heard and to effect change,” he said. “The key is to find an issue you care about and become as well-informed as possible.”

H. Drembus worried about the numbing effect of these consecutive mass shootings.

“The day after [the shooting,] I was worried that I was not going to feel upset or fed up or just determined, but that was not the case because of the student leaders from Florida and around the country who are really doing amazing things with this movement–I’ve been very inspired.” he said. “We stay determined, and this generation can have as much effect as any other generation, and hopefully more effect than past generations have had.”

The meeting was emotional; according to H. Drembus, even McElveen was holding back tears.

“I was very, very inspired–I was in tears through a lot of the meeting,” he said. “I felt a lot of pride in where I lived. This community is one that supports me and all students and fights every day to make sure that they’re safe and it’s one that has enough national attention and is strong-willed enough to really put this motion forward to Congress.”

D. Drembus was frustrated by the inaction of the government.

“Our state and federal lawmakers need to have the conversation and take action,” he said. “Doing nothing is definitely not the solution.”

H. Drembus dismissed some proposed solutions.

“It’s important to keep common sense in mind,” he said. “At this point, it’s somewhat clear that more guns is not the answer.”

The March For Our Lives will be held in Washington, D.C. on March 24th, and midterm elections are coming up in autumn of 2018.

“We have plans to attend the March next month and certainly to vote in the fall,” D. Drembus said. “More than anything right now, though, I’m trying to get informed and to remain determined to find ways to help change the status quo.”

H. Drembus called for Americans to wake up and not let the repetition of these attacks diminish their horror.

“There are a lot of kids and adults who, just because of the sheer number of shootings, have become desensitized to this sort of thing,” he said. “I would suggest that they watch the kids’ speeches, watch the parents of students who were murdered and the things that they have to say. I think that every once in a while that can jolt you back into the normal human emotion that should go along with something like this. I think it’s important that we recognize that, while it has become more common, that does not mean that in any respect this is okay to be happening.”