The Unthinkable: A Message from a Student
This article isn’t about guns. It’s about fear. It’s about change.
When I was growing up, I would sometimes hear about a threat made towards my school or one of the other two schools in my county. I remember that a few of my friends would stay home, but most people didn’t think much of it. I know I didn’t. I couldn’t understand why my friends would stay home because I honestly thought it was silly. I thought that since we were in a small school and town we’d be safe. Besides, school shootings weren’t even common. I wasn’t scared in the slightest. An event that horrendous was “unthinkable”.
I thought I’d look back at 2006 – maybe I was just a naive child who was too sheltered from the violence. I would’ve been in 1st grade then. When considering only the mass shootings in which more than 2 people were killed/injured that took place on any kind of school, there was only one on record for that year (U.S. News). This does not go to say that there were other school shootings, but when it comes to mass shootings there was only one that took place at a school. Other years had more, but overall, there weren’t a significant amount. It turns out, I was right to not be afraid. I didn’t have a lot of reason to be.
Two years ago, I was a sophomore. A threat was made against my school. I stayed up the entire night worrying about it and trying to decide what to do. It’s hard to think that 8 years before that, it wouldn’t have even been a conversation. After a sleepless night, I decided I was just too scared and I stayed home. It turns out, some 300 students stayed home, too.
It’s hard to say when exactly my fear of shootings developed, but it wasn’t always an issue. Now, I find myself nervous every time I hear the intercom come on at an unexpected time or when I see someone I don’t recognize in the hallway. Basically, anytime anything out of the normal happens, I expect the worse. This fear created nightmares. It shouldn’t be like that.
Now, its 2018. Threats are being made against schools across the country far too often, and many of these threats turn out to be credible. If you’ve seen the news at all, you already know that shootings have been happening much more frequently than they did in 2006. In fact, when using the same guidelines for the 2006 data, there have been at least 3 shootings in 2018. When including all incidents in which a gun was shot purposefully during school hours on campus, there have been at the very least 10 (Snopes). It’s February.
A very vague threat was posted about “SHS”. There was no information on which SHS, or even what state the threat was directed towards. Given that I go to a school with that acronym, my school was on alert. Even though they determined the threat was not imminent for our school, there were still several police offers from both the county and state on our campus. This made me wonder why this much precaution isn’t taken every single day. This doesn’t go to say that my school doesn’t put in any effort to keep us safe. There is set of doors to force visitors into the office, key card entrance, a resource officer present in the building, and bullet proof glass. Though all these safety features are nice additions, they’re certainly not enough. An even scarier thought is that many other schools have even less security than we do.
I won’t sit here and say that guns don’t kill people. That’d be a lie. But, I don’t think guns are the issue that need to be addressed. What needs to be addressed is how the country is taking steps to protect students. The simplest answer is that they aren’t.
Every school should have the safety features that my school has, but they should also have much more. There are steps than can be taken to prevent mass shootings and save the lives of the children and teachers. Metal detectors, security streamed live to police stations, alert systems, well-practiced plans of action, and materials for blockading doors and shielding students and teachers are just a few additions that come to my mind to make schools a safer place. In fact, the security footage of the recent shooting in Florida was on a 20-minute delay (CNN).
It’s painful to think of all the lives that may have been saved if schools had a better security system and plan of action. The high alert that a school is on after a shooting should be their level of alert every day.
Mourning parents and scared students are crying to the leaders of America for a change. There are various opinions on what the change needs to be. When it comes down to it though, all that we need is protection and prevention. The question that I find myself asking our leaders is: How many school shootings does there have to be until enough is enough? As a student, I’m fearful towards what the answer could be. It seems that there is never a change in a school until a shooting has already occurred, and by then it’s too late. So, why wait? Make a change now.
No student should be afraid to go to school. No teacher should be afraid to go to work. No parent should be afraid for their child to get an education. No school official should be afraid to be left to pick up the broken pieces from a problem they couldn’t solve because they lacked the funding.
School is a place to learn, and I’m exhausted from worrying when the intercom dings in the middle of the day. The “unthinkable” has become a reality. You think it’ll never happen to you, until it does. But, it shouldn’t have to (and I pray it never does).
In the words of DaShanne Stokes, “Violence isn't a Democrat or Republican problem. It's an American problem, requiring an American solution.”