Dear students,

I know all of you are grieving the loss of your fellow classmates in each state where you live, and many of you are suffering from deep scars and anguish about these losses. You are seeking answers, and rightly so. You are asking the adults around you to do more: to protect you at school, to help create a safe environment for you, to change gun laws, to have the authorities to do more to help.

I'm all for it. But there is one thing you may be overlooking in your attempts to seek sufficient support. And that is looking inside yourselves for that support. A common thread runs through every act of violence that has taken place in schools. Each perpetrator, before he commits the act, has been suffering. In some cases, we find kids who are angry, vengeful, frustrated, mentally ill, feeling alone, friendless, and eventually feel pushed over the edge to do the unthinkable.

Have you ever asked yourself: do my personal actions affect those around me? Of course they do. No matter how old you are, you must become aware that you have no idea how what you say or what you do may affect others. Please ask yourself: is what I am about to say or do kind? Maybe you think it's cool, clever or “funny.”

Ask yourself: Has anything that I said today to someone else been purposefully hurtful? Have I added to someone else's frustration today?

It isn't just up to the adults to solve this increasing violence in our schools. You too bear some responsibility to help the adults in finding answers. Remember, when you have an unkind thought, you don't have to express it. You never know how a kind gesture just might make the difference for that other person. Even the most disturbed people understand kindness. Working together, we may make the difference, but it starts in each individual's heart. Are you willing to do your part?

— Jess Ornelas, Hannibal

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