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Why I Did Not March Last Saturday
I did not take part in The March for Our Lives on Saturday because I do not agree with the goals of the students of Parkland. Am I a gun-obsessed puppet of the NRA? No. In fact, I believe in common-sense gun control legislation, including virtually all the measures the Parkland students are fighting for. Of the nine measures laid out in the Parkland students’ manifesto, I agree with seven. However, I feel the two that I do not agree with are destructive enough that they outweigh the need for better gun control. I also believe the measures I disagree with are gaining the most support politically. The Parkland students want schools to increase security and want loopholes to be created in patient-doctor confidentiality to allow mental health care providers to report their clients to law enforcement, I disagree vehemently with both proposals.
I am against making loopholes in patient-doctor confidentiality because I believe in patient-doctor confidentiality. It is crucial people can talk to a mental health expert about anything without fear of being reported to law enforcement. There are already loopholes in patient-doctor confidentiality in most states - including Florida- that allow doctors to report a patient to law enforcement if they pose an imminent threat to themselves or others. Nicholas Cruz did have therapy, but stopped a year before the shooting. At that point, he most likely did not pose an imminent threat to others. Dr. Alan J. Lipman, an expert in the psychology of violence at George Washington Medical Center, said if Cruz had continued treatment, it is very likely he never would have committed the Parkland massacre. Weakening mental health care by weakening patient-doctor confidentiality laws will not stop mass shootings.
The other measure Parkland students support that I do not is increasing school security. This demand has gained widespread support. Republicans support increasing school security because they can look like they are doing something about school shootings without endangering their NRA funding. Democrats support increasing school security because at this point they will support anything students from Parkland support. The NRA likes increasing school security because the measures proposed often put more guns in schools and consequently more money in the NRA’s pocket. Parents like increasing school security because they are now paranoid about the less-than-one-in-one-million chance their child will be killed in a school shooting and any safety measures make them feel better. Increasing school security is a win for everyone! The only losers are impoverished students, minority students, and all other students who want to go to school without walking through metal detectors, constantly being treated like a potential shooter and having no freedom or privacy.
Safety measures are gaining political traction, but they are problematic. The STOP School violence bill that was recently passed by Congress allocates 50 million dollars to increasing school safety infrastructure and setting up anonymous tip lines between teachers, students, and law enforcement as well as other school safety programs. First of all, increasing school safety infrastructure is not actually proven to make students any safer. According to the National Association of School Psychologists “There is no clear research evidence that the use of metal detectors, security cameras, or guards in schools is effective in preventing school violence” A research paper looking into studies on physical school safety found there is not sufficient evidence to prove metal detectors, armed guards or other safety measures decrease violence in any way, and some researchers suggest these security measures increase violence and misconduct by alienating students. Remember, the Columbine shooting happened in a school with metal detectors and armed guards, the Newtown shooting happened after the school installed a brand new security system in which people would have to show ID to get into the school, and Parkland had an officer on campus during the shooting as well as security cameras. Those security measures did not help.Whether security measures actually increase school safety is unknown, but the effects of school safety measures are proven. Scholar Jen Weiss says they cause students to "feel consistently watched, to distrust, hide from, and avoid authority figures." She also found they make students feel less safe. A Brooklyn high schooler might have explained the effect of security measures best. When asked how she felt about her school’s security, she responded, "They treat us like criminals. It ma[kes] me hate school. When you cage up students like that it doesn't make us safe, it makes things worse."
This is what the coordinator for Urban Youth Collaborative in New York City said about school safety measures:
"We have yet to see any evidence that this kind of [intensive surveillance and] policing creates an academic environment where [students] are more likely to thrive, improves school culture and climate, or creates a safer learning environment. Yet cities, states, and the federal government continue to invest in these kinds of strategies and the only results we see is the criminalization of black youth in their schools. School districts should divest the money they are spending on [surveillance and policing] and reinvest that money to hire more guidance counselors and restorative justice coordinators, and train community members to support the social and emotional growth of children. "
I think that sums the available research up nicely.
The STOP school violence bill also encourages schools to set up an anonymous tip line between teachers, students, and law enforcement to report students showing warning signs of being violent. My school has an anonymous tip line to report if there is a shooter in the school, but the administration has not told students to use it to report people they feel are violent. And they shouldn't. Figuring out whether another student is joking or making a serious threat is not the job of students; we are not cops nor psychologists, we do not even have a high school diploma, we cannot be told to figure out at what point our peers’ words are violent. Also, students shouldn't have to go to school in a place where they feel like if they say something that crosses ‘the line’ police or FBI will get involved. When we talk to our friends or teachers it should be confidential and if a teacher feels a student is showing signs of violent urges or mental health problems, students should be sent to councilors, not law enforcement. Troubled students should be sent where they can get help, not reported to FBI agents or police (who couldn’t actually do anything because only five states have laws that allow guns to be taken from people based on “Red Flags”). Students going to school with the knowledge anything they say could be reported to law enforcement will ruin the environment of trust schools have and law enforcement can't do much about a student saying violent things anyway.
On a state level, The Florida Gun Control bill also gives money to increasing school safety and hiring school resource officers (SROs). SROs, like school safety measures, have not been found to make schools any safer. However, they have very real effects on students. Studies have found the biggest effect of having a school resource officer in a school is a huge jump in the number of students arrested for disorderly conduct charges. In schools with SROs, students are more likely to be arrested for non-violent disorderly conduct than any other crime. Which means most students are being arrested for things like talking back or refusing to give up their phone. Some of these arrests are violent, an ACLU report found between 2014 and 2016, SROs across the country beat kids with batons, punched them, kicked them, held them in choke holds, and sexually assaulted them. The ACLU's report includes an incident in which a 10th-grade girl was tackled by three school police, held with a knee on her head and handcuffed, all for not putting away her phone. In one report an 11-year-old boy in Los Angeles had his wrist broken by a police officer who arrested him for arguing. In another, a teenage girl had to be hospitalized after she was beaten to the ground and arrested by an officer. The arrest was because the officer thought the girl had Mace in her backpack - she didn’t. The school later charged her again for “resisting arrest”.
Kids arrested by SROs are often charged with felonies or serious crimes for incidents that would normally just be handled by the school. A girl with a learning disability got in a minor fight and was nearly sent to prison for twenty days because the court ordered she enter a pretrial intervention program that cost 300 dollars; a price her parents could not pay. A Virginia middle schooler was charged with assault and battery with a weapon for throwing a carrot at his teacher. A student who brought a maple leaf to school was charged with drug possession. A student in Texas faced two to 10 years in prison on felony forgery charges for accidentally paying for lunch with a fake bill. It is comical how kids are being charged with felonies for really silly ‘crimes’ that would normally be handled by a teacher... until you remember that felonies stay on children’s permanent records and stop them from getting jobs and voting later in life. Then it’s a lot less comical. Nearly 70,000 students were arrested in about 8,000 schools last year. Most due to disorderly conduct charges and some as young as five. Parkland was a tragedy, but so is kids getting beaten by police in their own schools and sent to jail. The whole country is enraged by the former tragedy but despite people telling their stories and despite the hard work of social justice groups there has been little outcry over the latter tragedy.
Both school security measures and school resource officers are more likely to negatively affect minority students. A study found schools with a population that is less than twenty percent white are up to 18 times more likely to use high-security methods like metal detectors, locked gates, and SROs. 74 percent of black students and 71 percent of Hispanic students go to schools with SROs while 65 percent of white students do. In schools with SROs, African American students are twice as likely to be referred to law enforcement as white students are. Some Black-Lives-Matter advocates have pointed out Marjory Stoneman Douglas High has a much smaller minority population than it’s district (39 percent minority versus 82.5 percent minority). The students who are pressing for more security in schools will be the students least affected by school security measures. This is not the Parkland students’ faults, but it shouldn't be surprising that the legislation getting passed to appease the Parkland students has a negative impact on minority students and that that negative impact has been overlooked by lawmakers, students, and the American public.
The Never Again movement is trying to pass any sort of school safety legislation, no matter how effective or ineffective. This is understandable, the Parkland students were in a school shooting after all, but I will not support them. Privacy rights matter, we must preserve patient-doctor confidentiality, not set up anonymous tip lines, and still be able to keep America safe. Minority students matter, and it is unacceptable a student go to school in fear of being arrested. Schools matter and safety measures undermine the environment of trust and respect that allows them to effectively teach students. I believe all together, the measures proposed by the Parkland students do more harm to American kids than good. I am in awe at the amount of unity the Never Again movement has brought the students of America, but it is a movement that I will not join until it drops the above-stated measures from its plan. Young protesters, march on! Just be sure you support the cause before you fight for it.
What do you think? Is the Parkland gun control movement effective or ineffective, good or bad? What are you willing to trade for basic gun control?