Two parents of kids killed in the 2018 school massacre in Parkland, Florida, will be visiting Saratoga Springs this month for different events focused on school safety and gun control.
Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter Jaime was one of the 17 people killed in the shooting, will be visiting Skidmore College on Oct. 16. Max Schachter, whose son Alex was killed in his classroom, will visit Saratoga to meet with school district administrators and the public on Oct. 28.
Both of the men experienced the loss of a child when a former student with an AR-15 terrorized the Florida high school their kids attended. Both of the fathers have since devoted themselves to activism, traveling the country, testifying to lawmakers and establishing nonprofit organizations in their child’s name – the Safe Schools for Alex Foundation and Orange Ribbons for Jaime.
But the focus of their activism has diverged: Schachter has focused on the specifics of hardening school infrastructure and called for a national school safety czar and repository of best practices, while Guttenberg has pushed for federal background checks legislation and other national gun restrictions.
“We have a gun violence death rate in this country right now of approximately 40,000 per year,” Guttenberg said during an interview on MSNBC earlier this year. “While I am doing this interview with you, someone is learning they are the victim of gun violence, someone is burying a victim of gun violence and someone is planning a funeral of a victim of gun violence. That’s how bad this problem is.”
Schachter, in testimony to the U.S. Senate in July, discussed the importance of creating a clearinghouse of best safety practices in schools across the country.
“I traveled the country and came to realize than in all of the 139,000 K-12 schools in this country, each principal has to now become an expert in door locks, access control, cameras, etc.,” he said during a Senate hearing. “It made no sense to me each school had to go and reinvent the wheel: the idea that crystallized for me was the need to create national school safety best practices at the federal level.”
The two events come after a year in which the Saratoga Springs community has grappled with the sometimes divisive politics of school safety and gun control after the school board last October voted to not authorize district grounds monitors to carry firearms – as they long had done discreetly and without formal district approval.
Schachter’s Oct. 28 visit is organized by Kara Rosettie and Saratoga Parents for Safer Schools, a group that formed to oppose that board decision. During the visit, Schachter is scheduled to meet with Saratoga Springs Superintendent Michael Patton and a group of school board members prior to his public discussion.
Rosettie said after hearing Schachter testify over the summer, she turned to a friend and said: “We need to get this guy here.”
She said it was important for people in Saratoga to hear how Schachter’s view of school safety changed dramatically in the aftermath of the Feb. 14, 2018, shooting.
“If you had asked him before Feb. 14 if this would have ever happened in Parkland, he would have said no,” Rosettie said. “I think there are a lot of parents who have this mindset that Saratoga is a safe city and nothing like this can every happen here, and I think it’s important to hear Max talk about what his mindset was before and how that changed.”
Guttenberg, who graduated from Skidmore College in 1988 with a degree in business management, was invited to speak at his alma mater by sociology professor John Brueggemann. (Brueggemann, who in the spring was elected to the Saratoga school board on a platform opposed to armed grounds monitors, said he organized the event in his role as Skidmore faculty.)
Brueggemann said Guttenberg at the event will share his experience with losing his daughter and his new life as a gun control activist. He said that Guttenberg can speak on the subject of gun violence with a credibility that few have and none want.
“I think he speaks with enormous moral authority that he has earned in the hardest way possible,” Brueggemann said of Guttenberg. “I think he knows stuff that nobody wants to know and we all have to try to understand.”
Fred Guttenberg visit
Oct. 16 at 8 p.m. at Gannett Auditorium on Skidmore’s campus
Event is free and open to the public
Max Schachter visit
Oct. 28 at 7 p.m. at the Hilton on South Broadway in Saratoga Springs
Event is free and open to the public
Registration is mandatory; register at www.spfss.com/events
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Categories: News, Saratoga County