Erected next to St. Michael's Episcopal Cathedral on Eighth Street in downtown Boise is a youth message board that contains three sheets of printer paper. Its simple layout belies a potent message. On one sheet is a prayer, and on the next is the number and names of school shooting victims. On the final sheet is the number of school shootings that have taken place in the United States since Jan. 1, and the number of actions taken by state or federal lawmakers to stem gun violence in schools.
"These schools should be one of the safest places for a kid to be, but it's turning out to be maybe a place where it's not very safe for them on a purely random basis," said Bill Wallace, youth director at St. Michael's Episcopal Cathedral. "As a youth director, I very quickly determined how frightful and how big of an issue this is for our kids."
It was his idea to post the pages in the shadow of the Feb. 14 school shooting in Parkland, Florida. Originally, Wallace put up a display following the 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech, but the current iteration of the display emphasizes how frequent shootings have become.
"Kids today just feel that this is just something that has been accepted and a risk they have to take while going to school, because nothing has happened to change their perspective," Wallace said.
The original purpose of the display, he said, was to humanize the students and educators killed in school shootings.
"Up until the time I first posted the display in 2007, states hadn't done anything about the issue. It was mostly just conversations like, 'We're really sorry this happened, and we pray for you,''' said Wallace. "But then they would just move on."
Wallace, who has been a faith leader and advocate for young people for decades, said he feels society has a moral obligation to better care for its youth.
"I wrote an article about the [March for Our Lives] rally this past March [which followed the Parkland shooting]. Some of the feedback I received was that I shouldn't be writing about it because they thought it was a political issue," said Wallace. "But it's not a political issue; it's a moral issue. We have a moral obligation to keep these kids safe in school."