Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Addressing Sadness and Trauma (English and Spanish) Resources for Parents, Educators and Caregivers from Child Trends


Came across this list of resources in English and Spanish for parents, educators, and caregivers in the wake of last week's traumatic events in Uvalde that I'm happy to share.


-Angela Valenzuela

As we shared on Twitter last week, Child Trends staff are saddened and angered by the shooting in Uvalde, Texas. We believe that every child deserves to be safe from school violence and the fear that they will experience it. Our colleagues at the National Research Center on Hispanic Children & Families collated  a list of resources to help parents, caregivers, and educators support children and youth after a school shooting, which we're sharing with you. Each resource is available in both English and Spanish. Please forward this list to anyone you know who might find such supports helpful. 

Resources for Parents and Caregivers

Resources for Educators

General Resources

Gov. Abbott Should Immediately Call a Special Legislative Session, but Will He?

Excellent toon imagery. Thanks to my sister-in-law for sending. 

Abbott's expressions of sorrow ring hollow. As President and Jill Biden were praised for their visit to Uvalde, Gov. Greg Abbott was booed by the community in Uvalde at last Sunday's press conference.

While Republican leaders marshal weapons of mass distraction by getting us all to focus on "shiny objects" like opposing transgender kids and Critical Race Theory, they give those of us in policy more work with ever more things to have to focus on instead of what we all should actually be doing like addressing gun policy. Without a doubt, gun policy today IS education policy.

I have been involved in the Texas legislature for at least two decades. Greg Abbott and the Republican leadership know exactly what they're doing. 

It's their playbook. This is intentional. 

EVERY legislative session, without fail, it's predictable.

That is, they mobilize fear by dropping bombs like anti-abortion, anti-CRT legislation, anti-immigration, build the wall, and so on, so that we in the advocacy community are all kept super busy challenging them. Our focus instead should be on all that we need to do in other areas of policy to keep our children, teachers, families, and communities safe and healthy, beginning with what should already have been, the elimination of what are real weapons of war that are mowing down our children, teachers, and communities.

Heck, read the Texas Tribune piece below to learn that in Gov. Abbott's 7.5 years in office, we have had 6 mass shootings. And then he and his party have the gall to scream at Beto O'Rourke for interrupting his SIXTH press conference to express a widely shared view that this was predictable and that not just health, but also gun policy is necessary, beginning with outlawing AR-15 weapons, background checks, red flag laws, and so on.

The responsible thing of any leader at this juncture to do is to call a special legislative session that will address all of the above, as well as building a new school in Uvalde as Robb Elementary will, as it should, get razed to the ground.

Doing what is responsible will actually help Uvalde in its healing. For anyone with a heart, with true compassion, this should be motivation enough.

He must acknowledge that what he does or doesn't do will not only impact Uvalde, but a traumatized nation, as a whole. Kids and teachers everywhere must be feeling a bit afraid of their schools. Such fears threaten to undermine the historic role that schools have played, in the words of John Dewey, as "laboratories for democracy."

Times like these call for a central role of good government and courageous leaders and politicians willing to do all that must be done. Failure to do so disqualifies this governor and his party from continued "leadership."

Prayers are in order, but for Greg Abbott himself. He needs to stop mystifying Texans with his empty platitudes, papering us over with cliché expressions of solace and concern. 

The burden of history and circumstance are upon him and the Republican Party leadership. He and the Lt. Governor must act now, even as we all hold him and them to account.

-Angela Valenzuela

This time, Gov. Greg Abbott has few suggestions on how the state might prevent future mass shootings

After previous mass killings during his more than seven years in office, Abbott has pledged that lawmakers and his administration would search for solutions. He made no substantive suggestions Wednesday.

Monday, May 30, 2022

Remembering Uziyah Sergio Garcia (August 13, 2011 ~ May 24, 2022) of San Angelo, Texas

My sister from my hometown of San Angelo in West Texas just sent me this obituary from the Gutierrez Funeral Home. It is of Uziyah Sergio Garcia, one of the 22 souls lost in Uvalde, Texas, last week. Born on August 13, 2011, he was only 10 years old, a beautiful child like all the others, whose lives were senslesly taken by gun violence.

Our visit to Uvalde's Town Square (see earlier posts by Emilio Zamora and me), where a shrine was set up to honor the victims, coincided with the time that Uziyah's family was there. 

Wearing white, printed t-shirts with Uziyah's picture, represented as an angel, on them, they caught my attention. His aunt told me that Uziyah was from San Angelo and that his body had been delivered there. Quenching my own tears, I told her that I am from San Angelo and that I was really sorry at what had happened.

They remembered him as a truly delightful boy. They said that he had great faith in God and would always tell everyone, "God bless you. God bless you." 

While referring to a class photo with the two fallen teachers, Ms. Irma Mireles and Irma Garcia, superimposed on it, family members, commented admiringly on how he always liked to be in front.

(Manny Renfro / Associated Press)

This experience fills me with so many thoughts and feelings. One thing that struck me is how we are all connected. "We are all West Texas," was impressed upon my heart. This is familiar territory and I got reconnected to it. And all I can tell you about that is that it's complicated.

West Texas has a history and a story that needs to be told (especially see Emilio's reflection on this). Another thing that struck me is that this is a family that prays. Having grown up in the church in West Texas, this was recognizable to me. Perhaps not all, but all that they shared seemed to align. How assuring. How helpful.

Prayer, meditation, Indigenous ceremony, and all the healing arts, provide great protection—especially when practiced daily—in this time of great need and vulnerability. 

I myself am in deep prayer and meditation for all the children and families impacted. Action and advocacy often also have a positive impact on healing while motivating commonsense reforms. Gov. Abbott should most definitely call a special legislative session to address this matter alone. He should do this soon. He should stop playing politics and should understand instead that immediately calling a special session will contribute enormously to our healing. To not do so is to perpetuate this violence.

We are not solely living a moment that is "polarized," my friends. It is first and foremost a spiritual battle anchored in a culture that espouses harmful ways of knowing and being in the world, and with policies, rules, and regulations to match. 

We must all humble ourselves so that Creator can work miracles in this time of great pain, suffering, and trauma for the families and communities impacted by this massive loss of life—all of whom were treasures, greatly loved and supremely adored.

How could they not be? They were brimming with life and purpose. Too young to be cynical, yet old enough to have exciting dreams for their lives and futures. 

How could this not be? They had great teachers, too.

I am so honored and touched to have been blessed by Uziyah's family whose love for Uziyah is eternal.

It didn't have to be this way. 

I trust that San Angelo will always remember you, Uziyah. 

I know I will.

-Angela Valenzuela

#RememberUziyah #UvaldeStrong #WeAreAllWestTexas

Uziyah Sergio Garcia

August 13, 2011 ~ May 24, 2022 (age 10)


Uziyah Sergio Garcia, 10, of Uvalde, Texas, formerly of San Angelo, Texas passed away on May 24, 2022 in Uvalde, Texas.  Services are pending with Gutierrez Funeral Chapels, 1002 North Oakes St, San Angelo, Texas.

To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Uziyah Sergio Garcia, please visit our floral store.

Reflections on Uvalde by Angela Valenzuela, Ph.D.

Reflections on Uvalde 
Angela Valenzuela, Ph.D.

We just got back from Uvalde, my friends. My husband, Emilio and I, took a quick, weekend trip to pay our respects. What happened in Uvalde felt painful, deeply personal, and much too close to home. 

My emotions run the gamut between petrifying sadness at the tragic loss of so many children and their teachers, and gut-churning outrage at our Republican leadership that do not want to see the truth before their very eyes that—but for their greed, love of money, power, and guns—expressed in harmful policies and priorities—this tragedy could have been avoided. 

This, atop the fact that according to this May 25, 2022 NPR piece on school violence titled, "10 years since the horrific tragedy in Sandy Hook Elementary," gun laws haven't changed despite what clearly is a current, well-documented epidemic of gun violence in our country. To learn how to take action, there ARE resources, including the following: 

A second May 25, 2022 NPR piece titled, "27 school shootings with injuries or deaths have taken place so far this year." This figure doesn't count the fact that, according to Education Week, there have been 119 school shootings since 2018.

There is so much gun violence in America that President Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris had to split up to cover the horrific, recent shooting in Buffalo, New York—that took the lives of 10 people in the Black community—so that he and Jill could make it to Uvalde. 

Children walk hand in hand in a street near the scene of a shooting at a supermarket in Buffalo, N.Y. on May 15. Matt Rourke/AP

Emilio and I indeed found it comforting to be sitting close to them both in yesterday's Sunday mass at Uvalde's Sacred Heart Cathedral where I got the chance to thank them for coming. "Your welcome," he responded quietly. 

I appreciated that Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller officiated in English, intermixed with Spanish, with the Bidens in attendance, receiving, along with the rest, his words of solace and reassurance. This apparent decision to not have Biden speak assured that the service would be centered on a community's healing rather than politics. Although he did speak to the families afterwards in a private session, I imagine that as a Catholic himself, he likely preferred to be consoled rather than to console as he often does. 

A wonderful gesture by the archbishop was his calling all of the children attending mass to the front of the church where he expressed words of support and comfort to them all in a soft-spoken, loving voice. At least one small child near us sobbed throughout inconsolably with his mother having to pull him out of the service earlier than the rest. It's all so heart breaking.

For all of us who have children, grandchildren, or who work closely with children, all of this must surely have special resonance. In our case, we have a grandson who is the same age as many of these children at Robb Elementary. He knows about what happened and said to us on Saturday that "It's sad," adding that "this shouldn't happen to children." We work closely with this age group and their families at our Saturday school, Academia Cuauhtli. We are planning a healing ceremony for the children and families that we work with that is scheduled for Sunday morning June 5, 2022

Our intentions are to listen to what our children and youth have to say about all of this since we know it's affecting them, perhaps making them fearful of attending school. Such thoughts are sure to lurk in many teachers' minds, as well, such that we all need to do what we can to embrace them while simultaneously advocating for meaningful gun reform legislation at this crucial point in our history as a country.

To be sure, the trauma that Uvalde is experiencing right now is reverberating across the country with children and teachers, respectively, fearing schools as  potentially dangerous places to attend and work.

To be of help, here is an extensive list of verified fundraisers where you can donate to help cover not only funeral, but also counseling, costs. Here is an excellent May 25th NPR piece on other ways to help, including support for volunteer legal services and blood donations.

This is for the long haul, my friends. 

These survivors will need every penny to become not so much "whole," since that's impossible for survivors, but at least "more whole" with effective counseling and therapy. 

In the meantime, let's all hug our children and their teachers even as we contemplate how a world without guns is actually a much safer world than one with them. Collectively, let's commit to changing not just gun laws, but also our hideous culture of gun violence. 

-Angela Valenzuela