Op-Ed

As school shootings mount, I’m sharing my school with fear

People hold up candles during a candlelight vigil for the victims of the Wednesday shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Fla., Feb 2018.
People hold up candles during a candlelight vigil for the victims of the Wednesday shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Fla., Feb 2018. AP

I am a current senior at a local high school. Last year, someone threatened to shoot up my school. I hadn’t heard of the threat until my principal came over the announcement speaker to assure us that the situation was being investigated. I left school early that day because my mother was too afraid that something would happen. I later found out that the shooting was expected to occur the next day. I stayed home that day, too.

When I returned to school the day after, I remember looking around my classrooms more carefully as I entered them. I looked at the people around me, wondering if anyone in my classes fit the “school shooter” stereotype. I looked at the furniture and other objects around me that I could use to hide or protect myself if someone were to come in the room with a gun. These are not things I should have to think about as I enter a classroom.

This past week my Civics teacher assigned a research paper on any topic of our choice. I chose to write mine on gun control because it is something I have strong opinions on. When I began my research yesterday by reading articles on the most publicized mass shootings since I was born, I couldn’t know that literally minutes later another mass shooting would occur. But I’m not surprised when these things happen anymore.

School is supposed to be a safe space for children to learn and grow. Instead, many students, as well as their parents, are more concerned with whether they will safely make it through the day. After each shooting, people come together. Some believe the discussion should be about gun control, while others think it should be about mental illness. The discussion should be about the fact that there are no safe places anymore. Some students come to school to escape situations in their own home. Which situation should they have to fear more – a physically abusive parent or a classmate that decides they want to bring their gun to school that day?

When is enough really enough? At what point will there be better regulations or better protocols to protect us? I am 18 years old, a legal adult. If there were to be a shooting, I can run or hide. But what about the students that can’t? What about the students that have special needs? A few weeks ago, we had a fire at school. I was bringing a special needs student back to class when the alarm went off. At that point, I didn’t know what to do. Would the student panic? Would they run away from me? Would I lose them in the crowd of nearly 3,000 students also trying to evacuate the school? What if that fire had been a code red? Would the student understand? Would they be able to be quiet and hide until the police arrived?

When the Sandy Hook Shooting occurred, I was 12. I didn’t understand why innocent children and teachers were killed. I don’t think anyone will ever understand why these tragedies occur. Agencies can come in afterwards and study the shooter. They can offer explanations such as “the shooter was mentally ill” or “had a history of violence.” At what point will we decide that these explanations are not enough? The lives that have been lost through mass shootings are far too many. We need to do more. We need to protect children in places that should be safe and happy.

Reagan Dovel lives in Apex.

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