Thanks for your recent article shedding light on the lack of action from District 97 in regard to secure firearm storage communication. As the leading killer of children, gun violence is an increasingly concerning public health issue and educating families on best practices for secure storage is a proven, effective tool to diminish its impact. As with all health education campaigns, finding the right medium for delivery is key.

Superintendent Ushma Shah claimed, “We are probably already sharing information in the best way possible.” I’d like to understand her meaning of “best” here. Or “sharing,” for that matter, because I’ve not seen D97 share anything on secure storage to date. If, as Supt. Shah claims, they are relying on partner agencies for communication, shame on them. Parents in D97 are already captive audiences for district-wide newsletters, school emails, texts, and more.

When D97 has deemed something critical enough to address, we get blasted with it. Take, for example, the policy on tree nuts: All D97 schools are nut-free zones. I saw this in a district newsletter, in a principal email, and heard it from each of my children’s teachers on Curriculum Night. And thank goodness! An estimated 0.5 to 1% percent of children have sometimes deadly nut allergies, thus we all go the inconvenient extra mile to find acceptable proteins. Worth it if it saves one kid, right?

Unlike nut allergies, the nature of firearms is such that your child doesn’t need to have a diagnosis to be at risk. Rather, if one local child has access to an unsecured firearm (an estimated 54% of gun owners don’t lock their guns up properly) and brings it to school, 100% of our school community is at an increased risk of death.

COVID is another recent example of the district’s willingness to communicate pertinent health information. I wonder why the district didn’t rely on Shah’s “best way possible” to share hand-washing recommendations? Likely because studies show that the most effective health education communication comes from easily accessible, trusted sources.

Gun violence is a public health issue and health education communication is hard. But from what I’ve seen, when D97 prioritizes it, they can be quite effective educators. Is it ironic that our leaders in education are reluctant to educate? Or is Supt. Shah and the school board telling us they just don’t care?

Nancy B. Schroeder
Oak Park

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