Families of Parkland Victims Unite to End Violence in Schools

September 26, 2018 by TWN Staff
Mourners bring flowers as they pay tribute at a memorial for the victims of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Sunday, Feb. 25, 2018 during an open house as parents and students returned to the school for the first time since 17 people were killed in a mass shooting at the school in Parkland on Feb. 14, 2018. (David Santiago/Miami Herald/TNS)

In the wake of the unspeakable tragedy that unfolded at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School earlier this year, families of the 17 victims have joined together to stop school violence. Through their newly formed advocacy organization, Stand with Parkland, the group hopes to work with policymakers across the political spectrum to curb violence in our nation’s schools through school safety enhancements, mental health screening and support programs, and responsible firearms ownership.

While the members of Stand with Parkland are committed to working with other advocacy organizations toward the common goal of ending violence in America’s schools, they represent a bit of a departure from some of the more extreme rhetoric on both sides of the aisle. Instead, they argue, policymakers of both parties must come together in order for real and lasting change to occur. This type of incremental progress, they argue, is the best approach to ending the senseless violence that threatens America’s classrooms every day.

Tony Montalto is the President of Stand with Parkland and the father of Gina Montalto, who lost her life in the shooting.

“The Parkland families are inspired by the love and support of millions of people who have reached out, the courageousness of the surviving students who have spoken out, and the millions who have marched. As the families who have suffered the loss of a loved one in this tragedy, we are banding together to do something about violence in our schools so that no other families have to experience the pain that we have had to endure,” said Montalto.

Leading up to and since the organization’s official launch in June, Stand With Parkland has been hard at work impacting real policy changes across the country. They say they are committed to working with anyone who shares their goals of making schools safe again and that their non-partisan approach has already been successful.

Meeting with and urging elected officials on both sides of the aisle to work together, family members of Stand With Parkland were instrumental in supporting the passage of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act in Florida. Recently signed into law by Governor Rick Scott, the new law provides $400 million to mental health care, raises the legal age to own a firearm to 21, and allows judges to prohibit mentally ill individuals from acquiring firearms.

“This was an important first step toward school safety in Florida,” said Montalto. “This goes to show that when elected officials shake off partisan ideology, they can come together and do great things.”

Stand With Parkland members also supported two school safety bills passed earlier

this year in the congressional omnibus package – the Fix NICS Act to improve the FBI’s background check system and the STOP School Violence Act that provided Federal funding for school safety. Both of the bills garnered bipartisan support.

“As the families of the victims in Parkland, we believe that for change to happen, there must be a comprehensive, bipartisan approach”, said Ryan Petty, who lost his daughter Alaina. “We intend to work with organizations, leaders and policymakers across the political spectrum to address this American epidemic.”

The families say they hope to bring their collaborative approach to lawmakers in Washington, who are often reluctant to address school safety despite how prevalent mass shootings have become across the country.

“Republicans and Democrats are both affected by this problem. It is an American epidemic. Stand with Parkland will be representing the interests of American families. Working with policymakers at all levels of government and in both political parties, Stand with Parkland will strive to develop and enact into law policies that address all of the many facets that lead to violence in our schools,” said Montalto.

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