The Students’ Perspective: School Safety and Gun Laws

Nina Dorighi and Grace McClung, Journalists

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Being an American student comes with pep rallies, SAT testing and spirit weeks. It also  comes with the fear of being shot in class, paranoia every time there’s a lock down drill, and the cancellation of school due to threats. We all see the news, we all know of the possibility. Unfortunately access to guns and the ability to use those guns for violence against schools, is uniquely American. According to KUNC radio, “From 2015-2018 there has been one shooting on average per 77 days.” It’s what sets America apart from other countries. It makes America American. Often times we get caught up in the politics of gun laws and forget about the students being affected. But the students perspective is a prominent one and one that should be heard. 

Not only has the threats to our school impacted student safety, but it has affected the daily lives of many people. Sophomore Catalina Kerwin says, “now every time I hear the lock down drill bell I’m scared. We all know that it’s just a drill but I no longer know that for a fact. I am scared for my life even if it’s just for a few seconds until it can be confirmed that it’s a drill. But for those seconds I am scared for my life and I don’t want to hear gunshots.” The idea of being involved in a school shooting is a very real possibility for many students. And while there are plans and procedures in place, some feel like the drills don’t work like they’re supposed to. English teacher Ms. Hyzer says, “I think it’s really good that we do have procedures and drills and everything but I think it’s just kind of adding another layer of uneasiness or nervousness or not feeling safe at school that students have to deal with.” These drills and threats have taken a large toll on students especially when they don’t know what’s real and what’s not. Many question their safety at school. Sophomore Dean Mauck says, “I don’t really feel like I’m safe at school anymore based on what’s happening in Colorado but I feel like based on what our teachers are telling us I should give the impression that I should be safe.” According to The Denver Post, in the past 20 years, Colorado has seen 5 school shootings including Columbine. The most recent one happened a little over 4 months ago and it has only added to the fear many students and staff members feel. 

But for others, lock down drills and safety procedures are normal. In the past 20 years, there have been 68 school shootings. And while this number may be shocking, many students don’t question their safety at school. Catalina reports, “It has become very normalized which is sad because lock down drills and canceling school because there’s a crazy shooter on the loose is almost normal. Kids should be terrified but they aren’t because it’s so normal which is really sad.” So should you be scared at school? Not necessarily. While the amount of school shootings has increased, so has safety protocols. Plans are implemented to ensure student safety, which is why we practice the lock down drill. Ms. Hyzer also says, “I feel like we have pretty good policies and procedures in place for safety and I feel like the awareness for safety is heightened.” 

The threat of school shootings in other countries is far less than in America. In fact, according to CNN, the US has seen 288 school shootings. The closest to that is Mexico with 8 followed by France with 2, and Spain with 1. It seems as if everyone growing up in American schools should be aware of  the worst case scenario because these situations are no longer hypothetical. Students from other countries do not need to worry about being shot in class because in most places outside of America, guns in schools are not common. South is known for having a diverse set of students, which means we have immigrants and exchange students in our community. One of these transfer students is Lucia Alberola from Madrid, Spain who was familiar with the prevalence of  violence in American schools. “In Spain we would hear all the news about every school shooting. When you guys had the lock down where Sol Pais was trying to recreate Columbine we found out about it and all my friends were like oh, you’re going to die there.” Lucia mentioned Sol Pais who was a mentally ill 18 year old crazed with a fascination of the infamous Columbine shooting in 1999. She successfully locked down the school for 4 days with threats and gun purchases and left everyone on edge, including incoming exchange students. When asked about her experience with the first lock down of the year she stated, “That was something that never happened to me and I was like this is weird. I was scared, I don’t really know what to do but like everyone was saying it was a drill so I was kind of calm. I don’t know, I was kind of stressed.” Lock down drills are typical in the life of an American student, so when an outsider comes in and we see their confusion, it reminds us that this is not normal. 

When thinking of high school in America, things like football games and prom should come to mind, not mass murder. As American students, lock down drills and threats is just “our harsh reality.” However, with the right protocols change could come. The restriction of guns in places all over the US could help create a safer environment for students. As we head into a new school year, it is important to remember that student safety is a number one priority. People like security guards and teachers do their best to ensure students safety during these hard circumstances and work to create a peaceful community inside the school.