Schools sign letter demanding Trump fix gun violence


More than 150 heads of schools from across the state put their money where their hearts were, buying a full-page ad in The New York Times demanding President Trump and Washington lawmakers take action against gun violence.

“I look at my own children, and I’m like, ‘We have to do something,” said P. David O’Halloran, headmaster of Saint David’s School in the Upper East Side, who spearheaded Sunday’s ad. 

Following the Sandy Hook shooting some five years ago, O’Halloran and other education leaders penned a letter to President Obama asking for gun law restrictions and drawing attention to the casualties caused by gun violence. Much like the letter, the issues and concerns it raises are not entirely new. 

“And obviously nothing has changed,” O’Halloran said. 

In fact, the letter in The Times is asking for pretty much the same things after Sandy Hook. What is new, however, are the amount of signatures — and that’s only growing.

Collecting the signatures for this ad was done very grassroots. O’Halloran started with what he had, who he knew, then used his connections with other independent schools. As a result, the principal discovered many of his counterparts at other schools felt the same. And each was more than willing to stand in solidarity on this issue. 

Riverdale and Kingsbridge area signatures included Jessica Bagby of the Ethical Culture Fieldston School, Dominic Randolph of Riverdale Country School, Thomas Kelly of Horace Mann School, and Tully Harcsztark of Salanter Akiba Riverdale High School. 

“I am grateful to Dr. David O’Halloran of St. David’s School for leading the effort to organize heads of schools in our city and state to demand sensible gun laws and access,” Bagby said in a statement to The Riverdale Press. “Myriad Ethical Culture Fieldston School students, faculty, parents and alumni are demanding action. I am proud to publicly add my name to their efforts and the efforts of fellow heads of school of conscience and conviction.”

O’Halloran was motivated by the students from the Parkland, Florida high school where a Valentine’s Day shooting left 17 people dead. Many of them have been touring the country calling out lawmakers who won’t pass gun control legislation.

“I think the students in Florida are inspiring all of us,” O’Halloran said. “They are the students that stood up and said ‘never again.’” 

That mantra made its way into the letter as the school administrators plead to Washington to create laws denying or restricting access to weapons, ammunitions and specifically military grade guns because of how many people they can injure or kill in a short period of time. 

“We talk about the need for students to be safe,” O’Halloran said. “We shouldn’t have to be thinking about these things in the United States of America.”

The administrators are powerless without the support of lawmakers to pass laws making schools safer from guns. 

“We are Republicans, Democrats and independents,” the letter said. “We are parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles. We are responsible for the education, safety and welfare of children each and every day.” 

Soon after the letter went to press, O’Halloran received an influx of phone calls and emails from principals across the country asking where they could sign. 

“We never expected it to get this big,” he said. “The students in Florida feel and the people feel. The time for action is now.”