The youth have already spoken, but now they show their maturity and willingness for open dialogue. When our country, especially our community, comes to a crossroads on the solution to an important issue, it is high time that we have open dialogue on this issue. The youth have shown themselves to be calm, collected and prepared with facts to bring to this table for discussion. We have brought respect to the table, something we wish to receive back in exchange.

I’d like first to address some erroneous claims made in reference to some of my own statements and addresses in the past, be it in previous letters or addresses to the Board of Education. First off, unfortunately I am not receiving any form of compensation whatsoever for any of my activism. Even if I did, it would not impact my beliefs or my vocal expression of them. I’ve been politically aware and interested in this field for numerous years, and this issue has become of particular interest to me due to its proximity in effect to me which grants me experience and insight into my views. It’s also been noted that I’ve been manipulated and lied to by the mainstream media and adult figures. I’ve been doing this all on my own, even my own family members disagree with some of my positions, as this goes to show its not coming from their manipulation and influence. As for the news point, I like reading a variety of sources, including publications from across the political spectrum and abroad, in order to draw my own healthy conclusions in see all sides to an argument. My point of view on this issue is not one that has been influenced by the mainstream media or even the recent movement, but rather one I formulated with my own research and critical thinking. I’ve made sure to research into every point I make to ensure the credibility of all my statements. For me, I hold truthfulness to be a high standard.

It’s also been said I do not speak for the majority of the youth with regard to my views. Upon my own research and the expressed attitudes of the student population, I found that a majority do in fact agree with me on this issue. I decided to conduct a poll for 24 hours with a sample size of 60 people. The end result was 68% against armed guards with 32% in favor with a margin of error of 12%. If we take into account this margin of error the majority of students still stand against the prospect of having armed guards within the school. If anyone wishes to speak upon the behalf of the other students in favor, I’d like to invite them to exercise the same first amendment right that we both share and enjoy.

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At the Board of Education meeting Monday I was able to address my concerns alongside three other students about armed guards. The first student, Junior Zawar Ahmed, spoke about how he as a person of color felt threatened by the prospect of armed guards due to statistics that pointed towards racial profiling. As a person of color he has the most legitimacy to feel concerned about that issue, as it directly impacts him. The other two seniors Miranda Madrazo and Ellie McCreesh both followed up incorporating elements of the past address, plus their fears for guards. When I spoke, I decided to talk about the economic impact of it. From my research (which I have proven at the meeting) I found that the annual cost, excluding benefits and after schools events, for two guards per school would be roughly $1.2 million per year. I also mentioned how armed guards would not be needed if there was common sense gun control enacted. I’ve seen lately on the internet that I care more about money than the students. To be quite frank, that is fake news. I care much about the safety for the students as I am one myself. The facts are that the people of Nutley won’t be willing to pay the extra tax money for armed guards. If we won’t pass a referendum to expand schools to deal with overcrowding, is it reasonable to say we would pass one to allow funding for armed guards? If it failed that would mean the money would have to come from somewhere else. You could have a classroom be armed with the best military defensive technology in the world, but if the education is lacking due to budget cuts or underfunding, the guards become redundant as no real education takes place. Like I’ve said before, it is Congress’s job to take care of our security. If we used this energy against the BoE on Congress, actual change would be implemented.

Finally, I have an appeal to the adults of our community. You say that we are children and therefore not entitled to these opinions. The first issue with that is the Supreme Court protects our right to freedom of expression and speech with regards to political issues. Furthermore, I am 17 and will be able to vote in less than a year, as many of these other students activists will be able to. The major point of contention, however, is respect. We as students and members of the youth have granted nothing but an open ear and respect for the stances held by the adults. I personally have fostered this idea of open conversation, as I think it leads to finding beneficial solutions that work for everyone. Throughout my experience and the experience of my peers, we have unfortunately been met with patronizing attitudes and rude treatment. For instance, during the BoE meeting Zawar was interrupted and heckled for his position while he and the rest of us gave nothing but respect and an open ear to those who we disagreed with. I’ve also been met with consistent fallacies such as straw man attacks and cherry picking of my arguments, as well as indirect statements attempting to discredit my beliefs due to my age. We’ve been and will continue to give the adults the right to voice their opinions and respect them for that, and we wish for the same in return. For those who already give us respect and support, we thank you for your support and commitment to this much needed discourse. The discussion has only just begun, so let’s keep it respectful and open to all points of view.