The American Ethical Union is proud to announce that our 2019 Elliott-Black Award will be presented to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School of Parkland, Florida for being an inspiration and a model for millions of Americans in response to great tragedy. The Elliott-Black Award is the highest honor that the AEU bestows to organizations or individuals in recognition of their significant and positive impact on society through deep courage and commitment and in the fulfillment of ethical ideals.

On February 14, 2018, a gunman opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle at the school killing seventeen students and staff members and injuring seventeen others. Several of them were shot while protecting others by holding doors, barricading entrances, and shielding people with their bodies. It was the deadliest high school shooting in United States history and stirred up much needed discussion and action to end gun violence.

MSD High and its surrounding community has shown fortitude, resilience, and courage in response to the shooting, but also creativity and outspoken activism that served as an inspiration for so many others. The March for Our Lives movement and the National School Walkout are examples of the many nation-wide campaigns instigated or inspired by students at MSD High. Their students also founded Never Again MSD, an advocacy group that lobbies for legislative action on gun violence, and have traveled across the country to encourage more civic engagement from young voters.

Emergency procedures are being reconsidered and restructured. The easy availability of guns and assault-type weapons has become the subject of renewed scrutiny. Because of the MSD High community holding up a mirror for our self-examination, we have been made to ethically reassess our sense of order in our society.

As a direct result, on March 9, 2018, Governor Rick Scott signed a bill that raised the minimum age for buying rifles in Florida from 18 to 21. The legislation also established waiting periods and background checks for gun buyers. The law allowed for the arming of teachers who were properly trained and the hiring of school police. So-called “bump stocks” would now be banned and some potentially violent or mentally unstable persons would be prohibited from possessing guns.

Two teachers will accept the award on behalf of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School: Kimberly Krawczyk, a mathematics teacher, and Dr. Jacob Abraham, the Director of Forensics and Speech & Debate Coach. The Elliott-Black Award Ceremony will be presented during the AEU 104th Assembly on Saturday, June 22 at 8 pm ET.

This statement was originally published on the AEU’s website.