The Student News Site of Tompkins High School

The Nestline

The Student News Site of Tompkins High School

The Nestline

The Student News Site of Tompkins High School

The Nestline

Tompkins Spreads Love During National Crisis


After the events that transpired at Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, a couple of classes at Tompkins are participating in writing letters of encouragement for the survivors of the shooting. With their students returning to school Feb. 27, Tompkins is hoping to have these letters waiting upon their arrival so they know that the country has banned together to take action and mourn for the suffering they endured.

“We are sending a box from Tompkins with everything: letters to the students, letters to the teachers, and signed Tompkins shirt(s) showing solidarity with the students and teachers,” said Monica Birtwistle, AP World History and AP European History teacher.

The letters began with a heartfelt email from Diane Wolk-Rogers, AP World History teacher at Stoneman Douglas High School, who requested letters from AP World History teachers across the world. However, AP Psychology teacher Amanda Sandlin is also participating after beginning their unit on mental illness.

“While in some cases of mass shootings mental illness is a factor, using tragedy as a platform only increases stigma and increases fear of individuals who are diagnosed. People with a mental health issue are generally nonviolent. In fact, only 3-5 percent of violent acts can be attributed to people with a serious mental illness. Stigma is the LAST thing we need, it only breeds division and an us vs. them mentality,” said Sandlin.

Whether mass shootings are tied to mental illness or not, the use of guns in these tragic events has dramatically increased over the years. There have been 18 school shootings in 2018 alone and the United States is currently leading in gun related homicides. As the problems advance, gun control debates are now stronger than ever on the national level.

“Something needs to be done. It’s important that we have a dialogue in this country about who can have access to guns and how easy it is to get guns. The second amendment is important to many people and that should be respected, but we also have to make a change,” said Birtwistle.

Although the battle over bearing arms is important to note, Sandlin believes that in order to make a change one must always display acts of kindness. It is never known what people may go through and often many are quick to judge, therefore lacking certain compassion.

“I have issued a challenge to my class to look around. Find the kid sitting alone at lunch or in class, say hi to people in the hallway (even if you don’t know them), include people in your conversations and ask their opinion, be respectful to people who are different from you. As adults I think we need to model this behavior as well. We need to stop the name calling, stop the divisive discourse, show kindness and acceptance, get off our phones or being so consumed in our personal responsibilities and pay attention. I think this simple act would do way more than any gun legislation or mental health reform. It’s easy to say ‘they’ need to fix it, but we all have the power and responsibility to fix it, are we willing to take the risk,” said Sandlin.

Additionally on Feb. 27, the date when the Florida school shooting survivors return to school, the Psychology club will be passing out and bagging 4,000 ribbons decorated in the Stoneman Douglas colors (red and burgundy). If a student gets a ribbon, they should post on social media with #MSDStrong. Students are also encouraged to share the ribbons with people they don’t know, intending to foster social inclusion and building a new sense of community by meeting new people. Tompkins is hopeful that the ribbons and the letters will be a way to reach out to Florida community to share our condolences.

“I think the letters can help the students at Stoneman Douglas feel a sense of connection and solidarity from the world around them. A week ago their reality spun into chaos and I think it’s important they see compassion and love does exist and that people are there for them,” said Sandlin.

Given the severity of current events, many students are taking a stand. Various protests have been planned where students across the country will walk out of school until a change will be implemented. However, as Sandlin stated earlier, the best way to cause a change is to spread kindness. Like the letters that Tompkins is writing, spreading words of comfort and kindness can make a positive impact on another’s life. Acts of kindness are the best way to prevent further acts of hatred from occurring.

“I think it will help them know people are thinking about them and that they aren’t alone in their grieving process. This is something that has affected everyone and if one student’s letter can help another student heal, then it’s worth it. The students are the future and the voice of change. They can make a difference,” said Birtwistle.


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