A St. Louis high school became the latest site of a deadly school shooting on October 24, the same day a teenager pleaded guilty to killing four of his classmates and injuring seven others. at his Michigan high school last year.
Education Week, a news agency that covers K-12 education, has been tracking school shooting incidents that result in death or injury since 2018. The number of such incidents now stands at 40 school shootings in 2022 alone, 132 total since 2018.
Leila Sadat, James Carr Professor of International Criminal Law and founder and director of Washington University’s Initiative on Gun Violence & Human Rights at the St. Louis School of Law, equates the US government’s failure to prevent and reduce armed violence and the proliferation of firearms in violation of the fundamental rights of children.
“American children are not doing well. As gun violence increases and politicians waver, school shootings are traumatizing a generation of young people. Although just one manifestation of America’s gun violence crisis, school shootings are shocking in their ferocity, the senseless and random nature of the violence and their impact on millions. young, captive and vulnerable,” Sadat wrote in a recent Harvard Law Review essay.
In the essay, titled “Torture in Our Schools?”, Sadat argued that “the suffering of American schoolchildren from unchecked gun violence may be significant enough in magnitude and nature to reach the level of bad treatment under international law, violating U.S. treaty obligations and customary international law.”
Sadat, longtime director of the university’s Whitney R. Harris World Law Institute and special adviser on crimes against humanity to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, went on to write, “The trauma inflicted on American schoolchildren resulting of their exposure to mass violence and the often non-existent (or harmful) legislative responses to the problem have resulted in severe emotional and clinically observable damage.
“School shootings cause serious physical and mental injury and emotional suffering to those directly and indirectly involved. Given that nearly three million children in the United States witness a shooting each year, many of them in their schools, the refusal of lawmakers to pass reasonable gun safety laws and submit them to traumatic active-fire drills and other counterproductive measures exposes American children to unacceptable — and illegal — levels of societal violence.
“The decision of American legislators not adopting well-tailored measures to protect schoolchildren is tantamount to a decision to violate their fundamental rights.
The pitiful spectacle of politicians offering ‘thoughts and prayers’ as children are buried is pitiful – and an abdication of their oath of office. Children have the basic human right not to be abused in school. American adults let them down.
“Of course, this is true for a wide range of populations and for a variety of human rights,” continued Sadat, who is also a fellow at Yale Law School’s Schell Center for Human Rights. “School shootings do not account for the highest number of gun violence deaths in America, but their impact on American school children has the potential to permanently mark a generation – and they are becoming more frequent and murderous.
“The pitiful spectacle of politicians offering ‘thoughts and prayers’ as children are buried is pitiful – and an abdication of their oath of office. Children have the basic human right not to be abused in school. American adults let them down.
To read Sadat’s full essay, visit Harvard Law Review website.
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