As a generation, we have grown up in a time where school shootings are almost regular occurrences. Each year they become more and more frequent, raising the question, what can be done to make kids safer in schools?
Mental Health is an individual’s state of well-being psychologically, emotionally, and socially. In most cases, there are warning signs from the students before they attack or behave differently prior to the incident that would indicate a need for help. An important thing to do is decide how a school should respond to students that are suffering or appear to have a sense of hopelessness. Teachers for the most part have taught many kids and theoretically should know when kids are struggling. If a teacher interprets something a student does as a way to call out for help, such as with drawings or writings they should take the responsible steps to ensure the students get the help they need or if possible offer their help.
The mass shooting in Parkland, Florida where a former student, Nikolas Cruz killed 17 and injured 14. A fire alarm was pulled right before the shots were fired which led schools to the precautionary rule to first check where the potential fire is coming from and evaluate from thereon. There are always indicators after the shooting but the problem is schools don’t put two and two together until it’s too late.
The Oxford School Shooting in Michigan where Ethan Crumbly shot 11 students, four killed and several others left critically injured. This is important because it calls into play whether parents and administration should be accountable and where the line is drawn.
“One case, a student wrote several poems for English class that involved themes of homicide and suicide as possible solutions to feelings of hopelessness. School authorities ultimately determined that his was a family problem and did not intervene.” The National Institute of Justice Journal: Preventing School Shootings said. “He later went to school and killed two people. Many attackers had a history of feeling extremely depressed or desperate.”
Most recently at Seminole High School, Da’raveius Smith, in an individual attack, with a gun shot another student 3 times. The 18 year old student, Jhavon McIntyre had suffered severe injuries. Smith claimed that he was being harassed by McIntyre which was his reason behind bringing a weapon on school property and attempted murder.
In all but one state (Minnesota), minors cannot purchase or own a firearm. Therefore, there was an illegal purchase or more likely, a parent or guardian purchased the weapon. Such as in the Oxford shooting where the question comes into whether the parents should be held accountable for providing their son, Ethan Crumbly with a firearm after he was clearly suffering and made calls out for help in the form of drawings and writings. In which he wrote things like “The thoughts won’t stop. Help me”, “My life is useless”, and “The world is dead” in school, where a teacher saw and reported it to administration where Crumbly was just sent back to class. Finally, the school shooter posted on Instagram the day before the massacre “Now I become death – destroyer of worlds – see you tomorrow Oxford”. School Shooting threats have recently become a lot more common with students posting on social media to writing in school bathrooms. It is turning schools into a place that seems unsafe and dangerous.
In many states, at the age of 18, a person can purchase a gun leaving a legal pathway for some high school students to purchase a firearm. However, if a student is still listed as one of their parents’ dependents, the parent can step in and refuse the purchase. While of course, anyone of age can purchase a gun as it is their right but the proper precautions should be met. A strong form of background check should be performed to accurately ensure they haven’t done anything to make themselves a risk to themselves or other people.
After the shooting in Parkland that claimed 14 innocent lives, Seminole County Public Schools implemented a new procedure to dismiss students by location to make sure it is safe during any kind of emergency.
The state of Florida proposed the topic of permitting teachers to have firearms in the classroom to prevent or contain immediate threats to the school of students well being. The pros of the idea were a situation of that caliber could be contained or terminated significantly quicker. The teachers would receive some form of training in order to have permission to have a firearm on campus. However, the cons (which were the primary reason the idea never gained any traction) consisted of there being too many risks for that to happen. If a student were to get ahold of the firearm, all hell would break loose leaving the whole idea to be a disaster rather than a solution.
Teachers and parents cannot hold kids accountable for being desensitized to hearing about school shootings. Kids today are growing up in a society and culture where school shootings seem to be getting more and more common. Some kids are terrified of a possible school shooting, and for good reason. Some kids think something like that could never happen to them, when the reality is, it could.
In all cases of school shootings, the shooter attended that school at some recent point. Therefore the student would know what to do in order to wreak havoc within a threatening situation. A proper solution to this dilemma would be to allow each individual teacher to choose what their procedure would be. Each classroom is different, some have direct access off-campus, some have multiple doors, and some have very safe spots within the room. If all students are forced to remain in an unsafe classroom, they would be sitting ducks if the shooter was looking for that location on campus. The teachers would have to notify the school administration what their plan is so the school can keep track of where everyone is.
Another solution which some schools have tried including ours is an increase in police force presence and a policy permitting officers to act during an active threat. During the Parkland shooting there were officers on the campus, but the procedure was to stay put and wait for backup. By the time they arrived the damage was done and it was too late. Those changes it would allow for action to be taken significantly quicker and would save lives.
A possible solution is to make a required personal mental health class at public schools in middle and high school where students can talk to others and learn about how to deal with their emotions, situations, physical and mental health to be more adept at handling strong emotions in their future. Most would see this as what some kids would call an easy “A” but the reality is that for those that it can help, it’s worth it. For the students that want to learn how to express their emotions, such as stress or depression, and the problems they face in their life through talking, writing, journaling, drawing, and more; they now have an opportunity to learn how.