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The correct response to Sandy Hook

In an effort to avoid the serious discussion about sensible limits on gun ownership, gun-rights zealots like Rick Perry, Bill Bennett and Louis Gohmert are suggesting teachers be armed. That's right – educators don't have enough to do, so let's encourage them to buy guns, learn to use them, practice using them and figure out how to safely keep them out of the hands of students. (And, by the way, how did Nancy Lanza benefit from being armed?)

Fortunately, educators – whose colleagues were the true heroes at Sandy Hook Elementary School – have responded to the tragedy in a much more mature fashion. Kathie Green, PTA leader extraordinaire, passed along this message about how one of my favorite Fort Wayne administrators approached the issue:

This was written by Principal Matt Schiebel - a Fort Wayne Area PTA Council Board Member and a former two time Indiana PTA Principal of the Year - it is beautifully written by a leader I truly admire! Thank you, Melonie Cawvey, for sharing this.

Yesterday morning (Monday at Shawnee Middle School) they started the school day off with the pledge and a moment of silence, like we do every other day. However yesterday's moment of silence was a bit different. Here is how it went:

"As we take time to observe our moment of silence, please remember the students, teachers, and families of Newtown Connecticut.

As we look for ways to honor their memories, let's show all of those around us that good always triumphs over evil. With this in mind, let's demonstrate through our actions and words that kindness, generosity, and compassion will always be stronger and more prevalent than hate.

Make it your goal this week to do the following:

• Say please and thank you

• Laugh with a classmate instead of laughing at them

• Pick up a dropped book, folder, or pencil

• Spread compliments instead of rumors

• Donate money to children by buying a Winter Wish

• Avoid a conflict and repair a friendship

• Help your parents around the house

• Speak words that lift people up instead of tearing them down.

So, as we begin our moment of silence, honor the memories of those in Newtown by reflecting on how you will personally spread peace to all those you encounter this week."

"I think the tragedy left many feeling powerless, so I wanted to empower our students to be able to take actions that would demonstrate to them that the actions of many caring people will always overcome the heinous act of a single individual," Schiebel told me today.

Another PTA mom – this one from Texas -- wrote a letter that is being widely circulated on Facebook. It's a great response to those who claimed Friday's attack was the result of "God being taken out of public schools."

Really, can't we focus on sensible gun legislation and not try to change the subject?

Karen Francisco, editorial page editor for The Journal Gazette, has been an Indiana journalist since 1981. She writes frequently about education for The Journal Gazette opinion pages and here, where she looks at the business, politics and science of learning as it relates to northeast Indiana, the state and the nation. She can be reached at 260-461-8206 or by e-mail at