Parkland students disrupting politics as usual

Miami Herald Editorial Board

President Donald Trump meets with students, parents and teachers affected by mass shootings across the country.
President Donald Trump meets with students, parents and teachers affected by mass shootings across the country. TNS

It’s been only a week and a day, but already the student activists who survived the Parkland school massacre are moving mountains, inspiring to so many — and a threat that’s rattling many others.

▪ Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, one parent who lost a daughter in last week’s massacre and another who lost a child at Sandy Hook, had an emotional televised “therapy session” with President Trump at the White House Wednesday. Trump heard their stories of grief, anger, anguish and their demands that he do something to stop the carnage. They did touch a nerve with a man for whom public empathy has not come easy. “I grieve for you,” Trump told them. “To me, there could be nothing worse than what you’ve gone through.”

The president expressed his support for strengthening background checks on gun buyers — yes! — and arming teachers and other school staffers — worthy of debate, but fraught with caveats and peril. (He didn’t mention a ban on assault weapons — it’s the NRA’s third rail, apparently.) He said, too that he’ll push for enhancements to mental-health measures. Curiously, though, his budget proposals whack Medicaid funding, which puts federal funds behind mental health treatment; and slashes school safety programs — on top of his rescinding an Obama-administration rule that would keep some mentally ill citizens from accessing guns.

There’s no either/or here, President Trump.

▪ Broward Sheriff Scott Israel announced that officers will now carry rifles at public schools. This new policy must be bolstered by officers being properly trained to use them. The thought of fleeing students and teachers either caught in crossfire or killed by “friendly fire” is chilling. Proceed with caution. Speaking of Broward, Superintendent Robert Runcie, usually stoic, lowkey — but effective — was an electrifying presence as he addressed the audience at CNN’s town hall on the shooting Wednesday night. Bravo!

▪ In Miami-Dade, Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, has requested an additional $30 million from the Florida Legislature to bolster school security against heavily armed shooters. The funds would be used to put armored glass in doors and windows, install advanced social media review systems and hire more police, mental health experts and social workers to detect students with problems that may degenerate into acts of violence. All good ideas.

▪ Students hit a triple when their GoFundMe quest to raise $1 million brought in $3.5 million for their efforts, much of it from celebrities — Oprah Winfrey and George and Amal Clooney among them. We urge the students to use those funds wisely, to not — as Herald columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. said in a Facebook Live interview Wednesday — “misplay” their hand. Things can get funky when money’s involved. Give your enemies no reason to attack.

▪ Speaking of enemies, students got another harsh lesson in what can happen when you raise a righteous ruckus. Tuesday, Republicans in the state House voted, heartlessly, to block debate — debate —on an assault-weapons ban. Wednesday, many of them basically, patronized a group of students who came to discuss stricter gun laws. “You have to be very careful of what authority you give the government,” said House Speaker Richard Corcoran, a punt if there ever was one. Then this: a legislative aide spread “fake news” that two student leaders were paid actors and provocateurs. Despicable. He’s been fired.

The lesson: If they’re trying to tear you down, you’re doing a good job.