Statement on Recent Shootings

Dear LRA Family and Friends,

In the original statement regarding the recent gun violence in our universities and communities, we realized that language was used that was interpreted as offensive or not sensitive to all our membership. While we intended to be inclusive, we recognize that the phrasing used did not achieve this end. We apologize for this error. Please read the amended statement below.


Once again, we are jolted and immensely saddened by the recent series of tragic deaths on our university campuses and communities in North Carolina, Virginia, Idaho, and Colorado, and we earnestly wish for whatever comforts from whatever source that can be offered to the grieving families for the loss of their loved ones.


Most unfortunately, these are only a few of the 602 deaths this year due to mass shootings already recorded by the Gun Violence Archive in which every category where data is compiled has increased dramatically since 2014 This rampant escalation of violence in our country which has occurred not only in schools, but in all the places where we live, work and play raises perplexing questions about our safety as well as to the reasons for this rising tsunami of death and loss where some deeply troubled individuals intentionally take the lives of members of diverse races, ethnicities, the LGBTQIA+ communities, genders, and religious affiliations. Given LRA’s mission to study language and literacy in its many manifestations, we also strongly condemn abusive and vituperative language which dehumanizes other human beings and makes them the target for these hateful violent acts.


As a body of caring professionals, engaged daily with children and their families, teachers, school officials at every level, and other literacy stakeholders, we struggle to think of viable, practical solutions which may provide some curb to the anxieties and fears many feel just in coming to school every day. But we are not powerless.


LRA has already reached out to AERA to join them in their call for “the establishment of a federal blue-ribbon commission or high-level task force that would bring together experts from relevant scientific and professional fields, including education research, mental health, criminal justice, and others, to develop short- and long-term actionable steps.” AERA President Rich Milner has assured me that as they move forward LRA will be a partner in this effort.


Further, members of your LRA Board of Directors have also put forth recommendations that LRA can take to further study this pressing issue. For example, commissioning a report on gun violence, similar to our reports on dyslexia and racial violence, which can be disseminated as a public document as well as to schools and educational organizations “seeking to use literacies and languaging to prevent gun violence, identifying the potential for gun violence, and for helping those affected by gun violence to heal.”


There is one more thing that each of us can do as well if you will indulge me in a literary reference. Tolkien, speaking through the wizard Gandalf, writes “Saruman [another wizard] believes it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. I have found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay… simple acts of kindness and love.”


“Simple acts of kindness and love by ordinary folk”—just like us—directed toward everyone we are around. Who knows what collective power this may generate in the universe.


I am happy to serve as a contact for those of you interested in exploring how LRA might contribute to productive conversations and solutions in addressing this issue. Please feel free to contact me with your thoughts and suggestions as to how we can move forward.


With appreciation for all of you,
And on behalf of the Literacy Research Association Board of Directors

Shooting in Uvalde, TX

Dear LRA Family and Friends,

Once again and too soon, we are mourning more senseless and horrific deaths as a result of another mass shooting in America—this time 19 third, and fourth graders and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. This unconscionable loss of life and the aftermath of unspeakable pain, grief, and anger should touch us all deeply as literacy educators and researchers. These are our children too.


We seem to have come to the point in this country where we can assume there is no safe place. Schools, grocery stores, churches, synagogues, mosques, movie theaters, concerts, restaurants, and many other places have been sites for mass violence. Shootings have been attributed to retribution, anger, fear of the other, mental illness, and other causes. School dress codes have begun including bans on “body armor,” and, in many places, security officers and metal detectors now greet students at the school door. Yet, the violence goes on, seemingly uninhibited.


Gun violence has now outstripped car crashes as the leading cause of death among youth in the United States. There are now more guns in America than people—a shocking average of 120 firearms per person—with Yemen (53) and Serbia (39) a far distant second and third. Firearm deaths of civilians since 1968 have now reached 1.5 million persons—more than the number of soldiers killed in every U.S. conflict since the American War for Independence in 1775. So far, there have been more mass shootings than days in 2022.


The nation’s children, youth, and their teachers are LRA’s intimate partners in our work to understand all forms of literacies—their classrooms are our workplace. All children in schools and the adults who teach and serve them deserve to be safe, but they are not. As concerned citizens and voters, we are not powerless. There are many firearm safety measures which could be passed at both state and federal levels, but are stalled due to political gridlock, and the undue influence of gun advocacy groups. And the sad fact is that there are more police than nurses and counselors in many schools.


In addition to passing firearm safety laws, there is also a dramatic disparity in trained mental health professionals who might be in a position to recognize early on the reasons for an individual’s psychological trauma and treat it before it burgeons into violence and death. Therefore, I urge all of you to do what you can to convince our local, state and federal lawmakers that our children’s safety, physical and mental,—the safety of all of us—should be their first priority.


On behalf of the LRA Board of Directors,