Some local private schools call for gun reforms

Feb 25, 2018

Some local private schools leaders signed an 'Open Letter' to the President and nation's lawmakers calling for action to ensure the safety of students. WBFO's senior reporter Eileen Buckley says heads of Independent Schools throughout New York are standing in support of the Parkland, Florida school shooting survivors to call for gun reforms. 

“This is a great example of the power in numbers,” Ginger Geoffery, director of communications at Canisius High School in Buffalo. 

Canisius High School in Buffalo.
Credit WBFO News file photo by Eileen Buckley

Canisius is one of four area private schools that signed the letter appearing in Sunday's New York Times. Leaders at The Park School, Nichols and Buffalo Seminary also signed the state-wide letter as members of the New York State Association of Independent Schools.

“We don’t think that it’s a matter of choosing between protecting the rights of responsible gun ownership and the prevention of gun violence – we think that both can be achieved through thoughtful and forceful legislation and that’s what this letter is all about,” Geoffrey explained.

The state-wide letter from independent schools said they are rising up to say 'enough' in the wake of the Parkland shootings that killed 17-students and teachers. They're calling for a change to gun laws. Helen Marlette is head of school at Buffalo Seminary.

“I believe we can do better. We can support both our constitution and protect our schools and our students,” Marlette declared.  

Buffalo Seminary.
Credit WBFO News file photo by Eileen Buckley

“What I do think needs to happen is make it less easy or more difficult for kids to get their hands on weapons like that,” remarked Chris Lauricella, head of school at Park School of Buffalo. 

But Lauricella points out that private schools seem to have a better track record in handling student safety.

“There have been almost no school safety issues at independent and private schools so far, and let’s hope that trend continues, partly because we think that we are so close to our students – we know them so well and we’re aware of kind of what’s going on in the lives and we provide the resources and outlet to deal with those things appropriately,” Lauricella said. “So when I hear the president talk about wanting to arm teachers – personally – and this is a personal feeling – I think that the resources that would go to that would be better spent providing mental health resources – I would love to have another school counselor here, another school physiologist here.”

The Park School of Buffalo.
Credit WBFO News file photo by Eileen Buckley

In the letter the independent schools wrote they “implore: the President and legislative leaders “to do everything necessary to stem this tide of senseless gun violence.”

The following is a copy of the draft later as of Friday, February 23:

 Heads of Schools Speak Out Against Gun Violence

An Open Letter to the President and Our Nation’s Legislative Leaders

As Heads of Independent Schools in the New York City metropolitan area and across New York State responsible for the education and physical safety of tens of thousands of children, we are heartbroken over the recent massacre in Parkland, Florida. We stand in support of the Parkland survivors and their efforts to effect change.

It was five years ago last month we wrote following the massacre at Newtown, Connecticut. Sadly, we have seen too many school shootings since cut short too many innocent lives with little to no change in gun laws. But the horrific dimensions of the Parkland tragedy are so profound that we are compelled to rise up again and say, “Never Again!” As the recent events in Parkland and the scenes of other mass shootings teach us, the easy and virtually unrestricted availability of highly lethal, semiautomatic assault weapons and ammunition places our schools, most especially our children, in jeopardy.

We implore you, Mr. President and our national legislative leaders, to do everything necessary to stem this tide of senseless gun violence. Address, and ultimately deny, unrestricted access to weapons and ammunition that have no legitimate sporting, recreational or protective purpose. Recognize that the proliferation of military-grade guns and ammunition leads to more gun violence and more gun deaths. The statistics are compelling and cannot be ignored.

The United States leads the world in the number of guns per capita; it leads in homicides, suicides and accidental deaths involving guns; and it leads the world in the number of children killed by guns, every year. In these grim statistical categories, no nation comes close to our level of violence and gun-related deaths. The United States of America can and must do better. Now is the time to take action. As educators, we believe in the United States Constitution. We also believe our country need not choose between the protection of responsible gun ownership and the prevention of gun violence and that both can be achieved through thoughtful and forceful legislation.

Never before have so many Independent School leaders in our region spoken with one voice on behalf of a single issue. We are moved to do so out of a duty to our students and all of our nation’s children and we find inspiration in the voices and actions of the students who are refusing to go about business as usual. We stand ready to help in this effort, and encourage our colleagues leading schools across the country to join us. Above all, we demand that reason and compassion prevail.

We are Heads of schools serving children from nursery through high school. We are Republicans, Democrats and Independents. We are parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles. We are responsible for the education, safety and welfare of children each and every day, and we know the time for action is now.

Respectfully,

Heads of Schools (Listed Alphabetically)

John Allman, Trinity School

Concepcion Alvar, Marymount School of New York

Jessica Bagby, Ethical Culture Fieldston School

John Baldi, Vincent Smith School

Bart Baldwin, St. Luke’s School

Audrius Barzdukas, Poly Prep Country Day School

Mimi Basso, West Side Montessori School

Alan Bernstein, Lawrence Woodmere Academy

John Botti, Browning School

Micaela Bracamonti, The Lang School

Susan Braun, Waldorf School of Garden City

Bodie Brizendine, The Spence School

John Buck, Long Island Lutheran

Paul Burke, Nightingale-Bamford School

Frank J. Carnabuci III, Birch Wathen Lenox School

Brian Carty, De La Salle Academy

Drew Casertano, Millbrook School

Maria Castelluccio, Léman Manhattan Preparatory School

Carrie Catapano, West End Day School

Ken Catrone, Soundview Preparatory School

Benedict Chant, Poughkeepsie Day School

Joseph J. Ciancaglini, Convent of the Sacred Heart

David S. Ciancimino, Canisius High School

Chad Cianfrani, Oakwood Friends School

John Cissel, Harbor Country Day School

Pam Clarke, Doane Stuart School

Bill Clough, Nichols School

Donna Cohen, International Preschools

Virginia Connor, St. Hilda’s and St. Hugh’s School

Angela Coombs, Academy of St. Joseph

Bob Cunningham, Robert Louis Stevenson School

Melissa Dan, School of the Holy Child

Laura Danforth, The Masters School

Eileen Davidson, The Ursuline School

George P. Davison, Grace Church School

James Dawson, Professional Children’s School

William DeHaven, Winston Preparatory School

Andre Del Valle, George Jackson Academy

Bruce L. Dennis, Packer Collegiate Institute

Christopher Devron, Fordham Preparatory School

William Donohue, Columbia Grammar and Prep

Jesse Dougherty, The Green Vale School

Dianne Drew, Dwight School

Ariela Dubler, Abraham Joshua Heschel School

Jim Dunaway, Manilus Pebble Hill School

David Egolf, Corlears School

Caroline Erisman, Cornelia Connelly Center

Gina Farrar, Blue School

Charles Fasano, Bay Ridge Preparatory School

Anthony G. Featherston IV, The Town School

Dean S. Foster, Hoosac School

Jane Fried, Brearley School

Michael Frosch, Hawthorne Valley Waldorf School

Scott Gaynor, Stephen Gaynor School

Patricia Geyer, Long Island School for the Gifted

Ward Ghory, The Harley School

Nancy Glauberman, Barrow Street Nursery School

Evan Glazer, Avenues New York

Felicia Gordon, The Brownstone School

Laura Graceffa, Robert C. Parker School

Laura Graham, Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church Day School

Martha Haakmat, Brooklyn Heights Montessori School

Tully Harcsztark, SAR High School

Patricia T. Hayot, The Chapin School

Matthew Heard, Dutchess Day School

George Higgins, The Beekman School

David Hochschartner, North Country School

Simon Holzapfel, Darrow School

Adrian Hood, Woodstock Day School

Stuart Johnson, St. Bernard’s School

Jean-Marc Juhel, Buckley Country Day School

Susan Kambrich, Woodland Hill Montessori School

Danny Karpf, Rodeph Sholom School

Phil Kassen, LREI Little Red School House and Elisabeth Irwin High School

Michael Kay, Solomon Schechter School of Westchester

Andrea Kelly, Friends Academy

Thomas M. Kelly, Horace Mann School

Donna Kennedy, Gillen Brewer School

Eve Kleger, Village Community School

Tara Christie Kinsey, The Hewitt School

William Knauer, Harvey School

Binyamin Krauss, SAR Academy

Daniel K. Lahart, Regis High School

Jonathan Lamb, Storm King School

Robert “Bo” Lauder, Friends Seminary

Christopher Lauricella, The Park School of Buffalo

Lee Levison, Collegiate School

Avi Levitt, Magen David Yeshivah High School

Sharon Lickerman, Resurrection Episcopal Day School

Jed Lippard, Bank Street School for Children

Sean Lynch, Lycée Français de New York

Colm MacMahon, Rippowam Cisqua School

Carla Jantos MacMullen, The Kew-Forest School

Timothy P. Madigan, Churchill School and Center

Helen L. Marlette, Buffalo Seminary

TreeAnne McEnery, Green Meadow Waldorf School

Albina Miller and Leslie Thorne, Parkside School

Brenda Mizel, Metropolitan Montessori School

Scott Moran, City and Country School

Kim Morcate, Rockland Country Day School

Ronnie Moskowitz, The Washington Market School

Nicole Nash, Hannah Senesh Community Day School

Eve Nealy, Westbury Friends School

Marsha K. Nelson, The Cathedral School of St. John the Divine

Scott Nelson, Rye Country Day School

Douglas North, Albany Academies

Virginia O’Brien, Notre Dame School of Manhattan

Michael O’Donoghue, Holy Child Academy

Eavan O’Driscoll, St. Ignatius School

P. David O’Halloran, Saint David’s School

Greg J. O’Melia, Buckley School

Tony Oroszlany, Loyola School

Simon Owen-Williams, Portledge School

Maria Palandra, La Scuola D’Italia Guglielmo Marconi

Susan Paynter, High Meadow School

Joel Peinado, French-American School of New York

Kevin Pendergast, Kildonan School

Margaret Poggi, LearningSpring School

Dominic A. A. Randolph, Riverdale Country School

Jenny Rao, Emma Willard School

Jack Raslowsky, Xavier High School

Amani Reed, School at Columbia University

Jim Regan, Martin Luther School

Scott Reisinger, Trevor Day School

Jean Rosenberg, Chelsea Day School

Janet C. Rotter, The Studio School

John Russell, The Windward School

Carolyn Salzman, The Gateway School

Joe Santos, International School of Brooklyn

Diana Schlesinger, Greene Hill School

Susan Sheahan, Episcopal School

Karen Smith, Smith School

Michele Sola, Manhattan Country School

Steven Solnick, The Calhoun School

Jeffrey Spade, Rudolf Steiner School

Stephen Spahn, Dwight School

Lydia Spinelli, Brick Church School

Todd Stansbery, Tuxedo Park School

Ellen Stein, The Dalton School

Matthew Stuart, The Caedmon School

William W. Taylor, Trinity-Pawling School

Michael Termini, The Cooke School and Institute

Kristen Tillona-Baker, The Knox School

Barbara Tischler, The Speyer Legacy School

Vincent Tompkins, Saint Ann’s School

David R. Trower, Allen-Stevenson School

Salvador Uy, United Nations International School

Jennifer Vest, All Souls School

Patti Vitale, Brown School

Bob Vitalo, Berkeley Carroll School

Daniel Vitow, North Shore Hebrew Academy High School

Larry Weiss, Brooklyn Friends School

Michael Wirtz, Hackley School

Janet Wolfe, IDEAL School

Debbie Zlotowitz, Mary McDowell Friends School