- R.N. Harris Elementary
An Open Letter to Families and Staff About Gun Violence
Dear DPS families and staff:
Our hearts have been hurt and our consciences have been challenged after another of our DPS community lost his life to gun violence a quarter mile away from his campus. Our students are demanding that our community do something to address:
- the easy availability of guns in our homes and neighborhoods,
- the poverty and discrimination that foster hopelessness and facilitate rash behavior, and
- the need for mentors, jobs, activities, partnerships, and volunteerism that give students a vision of a bright future.
Our mission as Durham Public Schools is to ignite the limitless potential of every student. As school leaders we are frustrated, and the students we represent are angry, that gun violence threatens that potential.
As a school board, we adopted a resolution in August 2022 calling on families to follow state law to safely store firearms to protect minors, and for our school system to continue to work with law enforcement, health agencies, and non-profit partners to help keep weapons off of the street, far away from where they can bring our students or staff to harm. Weapon owners may receive a free gun lock from Durham County Public Health by calling 919-560-7765; more information is available at their Gun Safety Program website.
There is more that we can all do to protect our school communities, and indeed our greater Durham community.
- Continue to create opportunities for mental health supports that allow adults and children to learn skills in emotional management and effective conflict resolution.
- Stand firm with your children and family members: make sure they get the message that bringing a weapon to school, no matter the intent, will result in serious consequences—both from school discipline and from referrals to law enforcement. It is illegal for anyone who is not a law enforcement officer to bring a weapon to campus.
- Report any threats or concerns to your school or to our anonymous reporting system, Say Something or by Text-A-Tip.
- Be an active part of efforts, whether in your neighborhood or faith community, to connect with our youth and provide them opportunities for growth and development.
- Talk to your children about gun violence in an age-appropriate way: how to stay safe, why to reject violence, whom to turn to for help.
- Tell your children how much you care for them.
Our school communities are safe within their walls, but our broader Durham community requires our collective attention. We are a progressive community that rejects violence in all forms and champions our children and youth. We call on our neighbors, friends, and colleagues to join us in ending gun violence.
Bettina Umstead, Chair, Durham Public Schools Board of Education
Pascal Mubenga, Ph.D., Superintendent, Durham Public Schools