By Brahmani Tirumalaraju
School shootings in the United States have rapidly increased and remain at an all time high from the past few decades. The impact of gun violence in schools affects countless individuals around the nation, and with this news spreading day to day, it is inevitable to raise questions and concerns regarding the academic environment and its safety. I spoke to multiple peers/students in the Frisco, Plano, and Dallas District about their perspectives on current issues in their schools. Most of the students I interviewed have never personally experienced a shooting, but the apparent effects of shootings near their respective homes were prominent. Many of them established the notion that it has been burdensome living in a state where constant shootings have been occurring, and they feel as if their “safe place” is now gradually developing into a primary target of brutal and ruthless violence.
The idea of school shootings is extremely frightening to many of us, and we hope that shootings in general can decrease. It is already daunting to see and hear news about it, so I can’t imagine what it is like to someone who actually went through that pain of losing a friend or family member to a school shooting.
-Karina W., Rising Sophomore in The Dallas District
To prepare students and staff, schools in the United States for many years have implemented procedures that construct and mock a certain circumstance of conflict, allowing them to understand what is likely to happen if an intruder were to break into the campus. Usually a staff member at the front desk would announce that there is a drill proceeding, and the teacher would turn off the lights while establishing a blockade to the front door preventing anyone from easily entering. Next, the students are instructed to huddle in the part of the room that is not visible from the windows and maintain utter silence. On paper, this seems quick, simple, and effective, yet, there remains a constant concern regarding the accountability of these drills.
Drills have always seemed semi-effective to me because if a shooting were to really occur, I doubt that it would be as easy to protect yourself and assume that the shooter doesn’t see us. I also would really just hope I am not in the hallways or the bathroom if it were to happen. It is a lot more confusing and scary if I am outside of the classroom, because I am all on my own.
-Razhim L., Rising Junior in The Plano School District
Personally, my schools over the past years have had at least two lockdown drills per year, and it usually lasts less than ten minutes. I remember in middle school where we would have presentations to educate us about potential threats and what to expect if there were a shooting. I also recall teachers repeatedly making sure to emphasize on the fact that if anyone we know is potentially hinting towards a threat, we must report them to a trusted authority. There have been cases of students posting to their social media accounts that they are planning to come to school with a weapon, and they have been through strong punishments and consequences due to the threats.
As a result of the threats and newspread, an aspect of school shootings are the mental health effects. If you are a student in school currently, it is crucial to be able to talk about what you are feeling right now in these unpredictable times. After the COVID-19 breakout, mental health related illnesses have increased, and as a result, the importance of seeking counseling or speaking to a trusted figure has risen. Students may be reluctant to open up about their current mental state, and I saw from my interviews that the fear is undeniably clear regarding school shootings. Mental health issues can arise from a multitude of different reasons, so the benefits to talking to someone is effective to break down any preexisting trauma and stress. One of my very close friends said the following about her struggle, and how the news spread of school shootings have affected her personally:
School shootings have increased in Texas, and I am more cautious about the current situations in school. I do feel anxious that we still have gun protection rights in America.
-Ramyaa K., Rising Senior in The Frisco Independent School District
This response was essentially repeated and agreed upon with multiple peers I spoke to. Like it was mentioned earlier, the education system/departments around the country for countless years have been implementing drills to protect students, but the primary factor of tragedies resulting from school shootings was never dismantled in the first place. Merely placing 10 minute drills and organizing group presentations about how to protect oneself is not going to reinforce or guarantee safety for students in school; the issue doesn’t lie in defense, it lies in prevention. If the country’s leaders wish to keep students safe, the indisputable truth is that we need to fight and advocate for improved gun regulations. The trauma, guilt, and anxiety that comes from shootings is one part of the consequence; the other part is how we as a society are actively conforming to the abuses of higher power and its lust to protect weapons instead of constituents.
If we do not take action regarding gun ownership and the leisure access to fatal weaponry, shootings are going to consistently occur and children’s lives will continue to be at high stakes for years on end. I have never experienced a school shooting, but as someone who has the platform and privilege to forthrightly speak about gun violence in this country, it is absolutely tragic to constantly witness school shootings.
The aftermath of a school shooting distresses those who don’t experience the tragedy too. This is because news coverage on the topic leads us to rethink gun ownership, to analyze the psychology behind a shooter, to reinforce the idea of American unity, and, more deeply, to reimagine our sense of safety.
-Amy C., Rising Senior in The Frisco Independent School District
If you are an adult and know a young person currently attending school, reaching out to them about this issue might help them clear their thoughts and express how they are feeling. If you need to talk to someone about your mental health, make sure to reach out to a psychiatrist or counseling program near your place of residency. To seek more guidance and help, check out the following websites for further information.