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Statement from IFT President Dan Montgomery on Recent Gun Violence

We are all shaken to the core. Again.

Yesterday as an Illinois community gathered to celebrate our nation during a July 4th parade, six individuals were senselessly murdered and dozens of others were wounded by what appears to be a lone gunman firing a high-powered rifle from a rooftop. A reporter on site described the scene as a “bloodbath.” A doctor described the victims as “eviscerated.” In fact, one of our members, Dever Elementary teacher Zoe Kolpack (CTU Local 1), and three of her family members were shot in front of her small children. Thankfully, they all survived. (Please consider donating to their Go Fund Me page to assist with their medical bills and recovery.)

Our hearts go out to Ms. Kolpack and all our members who reside in Highland Park and neighboring communities that have been affected by this unspeakable tragedy. Please know that your union is here for you at this difficult time. Anyone needing special assistance should reach out to their union president or IFT field service director.

As Gov. Pritzker said yesterday, there truly are no words. I only know that we cannot rationalize such horrific violence. We must not let these tragedies feel “normal” just because they occur far too frequently. Indeed, on any given Monday, you can read about shootings over the weekend in Chicago and other communities statewide where 10 people might have been slain and dozens more shot—usually with children among the victims. These are often our students and they are always in our communities. They are disproportionately Black and Brown. This occurs as we read about yet another police killing of an unarmed young Black man in Ohio. If it feels like too much to bear, that’s because it is.

Undoubtedly, we’re all feeling some degree of shock, fear, and grief right now, and it will take time to process those feelings. Some of us may not be able to do that alone after yesterday’s horrors. I want you to know that help is available.

Our national union, the American Federation of Teachers, offers Trauma Counseling Programs and Services to provide help and healing. This benefit is free of charge and available to all IFT members. Through the program, members can speak with trained therapists via phone, text, online and more. All sessions are private and confidential and available to help you address both personal and workplace traumas.

No matter where you live in Illinois, as an IFT member I hope you will utilize this important benefit if you need assistance at this difficult time.

I know I say it often, but at times like this it bears repeating: “TOGETHER, we are strong.” Now, more than ever, we must come together and support one another. That is how our union benefits us all.


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