Teachers Debate Gun Violence

US teachers call for compassion and collaboration in dealing with violence in schools at the seventh Global Education and Skills Forum in Dubai.


US teachers call for compassion and collaboration in dealing with violence in schools

Dubai, United Arab Emirates, 23 March 2019:  A group of teachers from the United States discussed the topic of gun crime at the Global Education & Skills Forum (GESF 2019), a Varkey Foundation initiative, taking place at The Atlantis, The Palm, Dubai, UAE.

Insights were shared on the work they do to tackle the issue, as well as their thoughts on controversial calls from politicians to arm teachers in the classroom and issues around mental health support for both children and teachers. All three panelists – Brian Copes, Nadia Lopez and Mark Vondracek – were previously shortlisted for the Global Teacher Prize awarded in previous years at GESF.

Questions from the floor covered topics such as the Columbine High School Massacre, the US Constitution in regards gun ownership, the introduction of new policies, mental health care and classroom awareness in terms of the behaviour teachers should look out for in the lead up to potentially violent crimes in the classroom.

Teacher Brian Copes, founding member of the National Coalition of Sage Schools, said:

 “Collectively, we are not only concerned with solving the gun crime problem, but also, looking at the fundamental question as to why these crimes are continuing to happen. I won’t pretend to be an expert on the topic, but I also don’t want to sit back and wait for someone else to do something about the problem. In the US last year, we averaged one school shooting per week, and they are happening everywhere both countryside and city – this is real tragedy.

“We’re not going to solve the problem overnight but at least we can collaborate – one such example being the establishment of the National Coalition of Safe Schools. Prevalence in the US is most definitely driven by our constitution and our citizens’ right to own arms.  But on top of this, the situation is becoming more complex globally in part due to the growing popularity of violent video games.”

Nadia Lopez, school principal and founding member of the National Coalition of Safe Schools, added:

“It’s such a difficult subject especially when we have witnessed the impact of such crimes on children. But it’s not just the children who suffer from crimes of violence and the mental health impact, it’s the teachers and support staff too that need help. In the aftermath, the quality of mental health care is critical in terms of the ability of healthcare professionals who are trained to handle the scope of what has happened.

“Unfortunately, we come from a violent society, we use weapons of mass destruction to solve world problems – what we really need is a more compassionate approach.”

GESF 2019 this year was attended by five former Presidents and Prime Ministers and 40 Education Ministers. World leaders were joined by a new generation of change-makers, including grassroots activists, philanthropists, tech developers and many more, that are shaping the world with new voices, new ideas and new technologies.




  1. The Varkey Foundation believes every child deserves a vibrant, stimulating learning environment that awakens and supports their full potential. We believe nothing is more important to achieving this than the passion and quality of teachers. We founded the Global Teacher Prize to shine a spotlight on the incredible work teachers do all over the world and we continue to play a leading role in influencing education debates on the status of teachers around the world. https://www.varkeyfoundation.org
  2. The Top 50 shortlisted teachers were narrowed down to the final Top 10 teachers by a Prize Committee. The winner will then be chosen from these Top 10 finalists by the Global Teacher Prize Academy. The Prize Committee and the Academy look for evidence that applicants for the Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize meet the following criteria: 
  • Employing effective instructional practices that are replicable and scalable to influence the quality of education globally.
  • Employing innovative instructional practices that address the particular challenges of the school, community or country and which have shown sufficient evidence to suggest they could be effective in addressing such challenges in a new way.
  • Achieving demonstrable student learning outcomes in the classroom.
  • Impact in the community beyond the classroom that provide unique and distinguished models of excellence for the teaching profession and others.
  • Helping children become global citizens through providing them with a values-based education that equips them for a world where they will potentially live, work and socialise with people from many different nationalities, cultures and religions.
  • Improving the teaching profession through helping to raise the bar of teaching, sharing best practice, and helping colleagues overcome any challenges they face in their school.
  • Teacher recognition from governments, national teaching organisations, head-teachers, colleagues, members of the wider community or pupils.
  1. The Global Teacher Prize Academy includes prominent names such as Wendy Kopp, co-founder and CEO of Teach for All; Brett Wigdortz, founder of Teach First, James E Ryan, Dean and Professor, Harvard Graduate School of Education, United States, Jeffrey D. Sachs, world-renowned professor of economics and special advisor to the UN and Lewis Pugh, the only person to have completed a long distance swim in every ocean of the world. https://www.globalteacherprize.org/about-the-global-teacher-prize/the-judging-academy/
  2. The Global Teacher Prize winner will be paid the prize money in equal installments over ten years, and the Varkey Foundation will provide the winner with financial counseling. Without compromising their work in the classroom, the winner will be asked to serve as a global ambassador for the Varkey Foundation, attending public events and speaking in public forums about improving the prestige of the teaching profession.
  3. The prize is open to currently working teachers who teach children that are in compulsory schooling, or are between the ages of five and eighteen. Teachers who teach children age 4+ in an Early Years government-recognised curriculum are also eligible, as are teachers who teach on a part-time basis, and teachers of online courses. Teachers must spend at least 10 hours per week teaching children and plan to remain in the profession for the next 5 years. It is open to teachers in every kind of school and, subject to local laws, in every country in the world. Applications for the 2019 prize opened on Wednesday 6 June 2018 and closed on 23 September 2018 with teachers able to apply in English, Mandarin, Arabic, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Russian.
  4. PwC will be responsible for ensuring that the balloting process is fair and accurate.  Criminal record and other background checks will be conducted on the shortlisted candidates. Top ten finalists from Global Teacher Prize 2018 could not apply for Global Teacher Prize 2019.
  5. The Global Teacher Prize is part of the Varkey Foundation’s long-standing commitment to improve the status of teachers.  In November 2013, the foundation published the Global Teacher Status Index, the first attempt to compare attitudes towards teachers in 21 countries.  The index found that there were significant differences between the status of teachers worldwide. The survey also found that in many countries, between a third and half of parents would “probably” or “definitely not” encourage their children to enter the teaching profession. In November 2018 the Varkey Foundation revisited the theme and widened its scope, polling over 40,000 people in 35 countries. The Global Teacher Status Index 2018 showed for the first time a direct link between teacher status and pupil performance as measured by PISA scores. Countries with higher teacher status are more likely to record higher PISA scores, the report demonstrated, showing high teacher status can lead to greater student outcomes in a country. The full Global Teacher Status Indexes can be found at:



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