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Letter: As We Reflect and Pray

Los Angeles Unified School District Board Member Steve Zimmer sends a letter to his constituents in the wake of the Newtown, CT school shooting.

Hello friends,

The events of last Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary have left us all shaken and distraught. There are no adequate words to express our sense of loss and grief. There are no adequate words to express our sympathy for the parents, surviving children and the entire school community or for our outrage at the loss of dreams and futures.

For those of us who have dedicated our lives to teaching and protecting children, Friday’s massacre was a fracture in the sacred contract between parents and school staff. Every day at the school house gate we commit to teach children well, to keep children safe and to nourish their hopes and dreams. That is why we teach, counsel, and serve. And that is why we trust our public schools. That trust teeters as we despair over this tragedy.

Even the strength and power of our love cannot heal the wounds inflicted last Friday. That is the work of our faith and community. As President Obama eloquently said, we all stand with the families of Newtown. In these days, none of us are alone, we hold our children and our families close. And though we may pray in different languages, in this moment we are one city, one nation, indivisible. The power of that unity can mend the fracture and restore the contract if we stand together.

In the coming days and weeks, you will hear more about LAUSD’s comprehensive response to the Newtown tragedy. Our preparations will be in place when schools resume in January. I thank LAPD Chief Beck, LASPD Chief Zipperman, Mayor Villaraigosa and Dr. Deasy for their swift response and for their investment in additional patrols around every single elementary and middle school in LAUSD. School police will continue to staff every high school in the district. I thank each and every officer who protects and serves our children.

But we must go beyond protection and deterrence. Prevention and intervention are the cornerstones of the programs that work to bring support and safety into our classrooms. The full implementation of research driven programs for social and emotional learning is just as important as any math or literacy program.

In time, I will write to you about these programs. I will write to you about days of action and of remembrance. I will write to you about what each of us can do to ensure this nation enacts reasonable gun control laws to keep automatic weapons off our streets and away from every school.

But for now, I ask you for three things. 

First and foremost, I ask for your prayers for the victims in Newtown but also for victims here in Los Angeles where we have lost far too many children to violence.

Next, I ask for your alert watchfulness over our children and their schools. Do not hesitate to reach out with concerns and to report indicators of potential violence. We have the best counselors, intervention workers and psychiatric social workers in the nation here in LAUSD. Please call 1-877-550-2525 with any concerns you have.

Finally, I ask that you help our community to once and for all cast away the stigmas and shame about mental illness. If you have family members or friends who are struggling, now is the time to seek help. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (www.nami.org), Our House Grief Support Center (1-888-417-1444) and the Disaster Distress Helpline (1-800-985-5900) are outstanding resources.

We cannot be silent. We cannot rest until every young person who is struggling has access to the resources they need.

Like so many, I turned to faith this past weekend. I went to shul on Saturday seeking to pray in the midst of community. Rabbi Adam Kligfeld at Temple Beth Am read a prayer that moved me deeply and reminded me of our obligation to all children. Not only in times of national crisis. But in the crisis that is every day for so many children. He graciously allowed me to share it with you.

"We Pray for Children" by Ina Hughes

We pray for children
Who put chocolate fingers everywhere,
Who like to be tickled,
Who stomp in puddles and ruin their new pants,
Who sneak Popsicles before supper,
Who erase holes in math workbooks,
Who can never find their shoes.


And we pray for those
Who stare at photographers from behind barbed wire,
Who can't bound down the street in new sneakers,
Who never "counted potatoes,"
Who are born in places we wouldn't be caught dead  in,
Who never go to the circus,
Who live in an X-rated world.

We pray for children
Who bring us sticky kisses and fistfuls of dandelions,
Who sleep with the cat and bury goldfish,
Who hug us in a hurry and forget their lunch money,
Who squeeze toothpaste all over the sink,
Who slurp their soup.

And we pray for those
Who never get dessert,
Who have no safe blanket to drag behind them,
Who can't find any bread to steal,
Who don't have any rooms to clean up,
Whose pictures aren't on anybody's dresser,
Whose monsters are real.

We pray for children
Who spend all their allowance before Tuesday,
Who throw tantrums in the grocery store and pick at their food,
Who like ghost stories,
Who shove dirty clothes under the bed,
Who get visits from the tooth fairy,
Who don't like to be kissed in front of the car pool,
Who squirm in church and scream on the phone,
Whose tears we sometimes laugh at and whose smiles can make us cry.

And we pray for those
Whose nightmares come in the daytime,
Who will eat anything,
Who have never seen a dentist,
Who are never spoiled by anyone,
Who go to bed hungry and cry themselves to sleep,
Who live and move, but have no being.

We pray for children
Who want to be carried
And for those who must,
For those we never give up on
And for those who never get a second chance,
For those we smother.
And for those who will grab the hand of anybody kind
enough to offer it.

We pray for children. Amen.*

Thank you for allowing me to share these words and my words with you today.

Steve Zimmer
Los Angeles Unified School District Board Member, District 4

J Kane December 19, 2012 at 06:25 AM
Quit praying to something that doesnt exist, fet your head out of the ground, and do something that will produce tngible results. Praying. Puh-leeze. Get serious or nothing will get done. Look at how much good all the praying has done up till now.

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