The Power of Love

Parents want more school security, but student activists push back. Inside the debate over how to protect a school district.

It was a bright, sunny morning in the spring of 2016, with only a slight breeze and a slight chill in the air. I was in the middle of my first term teaching kindergarten at the former Roosevelt K-8 School in the city of Albany, New York. I was sitting on the playground surrounded by my students when my phone suddenly rang. It was my wife, Mary, in Chicago.

I told her I wouldn’t be able to make it to the playground in time, and she said I’d better be there. I ran, and we went down to the playground, where I was waiting for her.

The scene that greeted us on the playground that morning is not something that would be easily forgotten. Teachers were gathering near the doors to the school, a group of students were sitting on the benches in front of the playground, and an activist named Mary DePaolo was standing on a street corner talking with people.

“It’s the perfect example of ‘the power of love,’” my wife said. It was the first thing she thought when we met that day.

“He came here to tell a story,” she said. “And he found love here.”

That was Mary DePaolo, who would become the leader of an inspiring protest movement that would change how the country viewed school security.

I was the kindergarten teacher, and many of my students were her first students. They were her first students to hear her story.

I started kindergarten in the former Roosevelt K-8 School in the city of Albany, New York. The building later went on to become part of the Albany Union School District. It was the very first time I was ever told I had to stay inside while the teacher wasn’t there.

“I’m going to give you the safety rules,” I heard the principal say to the class. “Don’t come out because we have a problem with someone in our school.”

So while I was teaching, I didn’t do a lot for my students. But I loved my job, and I wanted them to see me as a teacher, and I loved working with kids

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