Staff Editorial: We want change

Students created an anti gun violence poster that hangs in the cafeteria. (Jumana Alsaadoon)

We’re scared.

Gun violence is the number one cause of death for children under 18 according to the Gun Violence Archive. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, “In 2021, guns killed more than 45,000 Americans, the highest toll in decades; and the upward trend is on track to continue.” Students’ lives are at stake every time they walk into a school building in the United States. We are the students. This is our reality. 

Coming to the close of the 2023-24 school year, we have had multiple threats that we as students have been made aware of. Each one has caused more anxiety and confusion for us as students, regardless of the true danger associated with them. We’ve seen the news, we’ve seen the documentaries, we know this risk is real. The lack of information shared with us when these events have occurred has done nothing but cause unnecessary fear and started rumors worse than the true situation. Adults seem to underestimate how much students are aware of and sense in our environments. We often all know that something is going on when it happens. Administration needs to provide students with information in whatever way they are able so that we can accurately assess the situation. Ultimately, it’s our lives at risk. Sharing updates with our parents is necessary, but we should not have to text our parents to know if our school is in danger. 

We aren’t aware of the true security measures in place within the high school besides the ones we encounter such as the buzzers at the doors to enter the main office or side doors. Despite these safety measures, it feels like it would be too easy for someone to enter our school building as during lunches, about 500 kids come and go, and getting into the school only takes a pass. It feels as if adults aren’t thinking through the depth of this very real problem. Even the new high school incorporates glass walls and encourages outdoor and hallway work time. The sad reality is that they should’ve taken advantage of building a new high school from the ground up and implemented safety policies throughout the building process. Maybe we truly don’t know all of the security measures in place, but these would be helpful for students to be made aware of to feel reassured of our safety when events take place. Otherwise, we are just left to hope that the situations are taken as seriously as they need to be. 

It seems that the topic of gun violence and the practice of lockdowns is taken more seriously at the elementary and middle school levels as well. What are we supposed to do if we’re in the hallway during a lockdown? What about the bathrooms that have no doors? These are questions we want answers to. Uniform practices should be taught to every student so they know what to do in these dangerous situations.  

HHS currently has two employed Student Resource Officers (SROs). Our staff has varying perspectives on the increased police presence within the high school with the majority fearful of the ways in which they could truly help in the event of tragedy and others appreciating the feeling of safety this presence fosters. On one hand it feels like we should have even more SRO’s to account for the size of our school, on the other, it’s devastating they are a necessary resource in a high school. This presence in the learning environment causes some students to be uncomfortable and others thankful. Another perspective on SROs comes from students of color who may have experienced different situations and stigma surrounding the police. Many of them find themselves questioning the efficiency of police officers in school regarding gun violence. Evidence from the University of Albany and RAND Corporation, published by the Annenberg Institute at Brown University suggests that “SROs do effectively reduce some forms of violence in schools, but do not prevent school shootings or gun-related incidents. SROs intensify the use of suspensions, expulsions, police referrals, and arrests of students. These effects are consistently over two times larger for Black students than white students.” 

With so much tragedy happening in our world and even in our community, hearing the news doesn’t feel surprising anymore. You can’t blame students for becoming desensitized or numb to the truth. We should feel safe in school, yet we bet you, hardly any student would tell you they truly do. Why should students have to flinch at the sound of a locker slamming or a student banging on a classroom door?

According to ABC News as of May 2023, “The United States has faced at least 202 mass shootings so far this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive. There have been more mass shootings than days in 2023.” According to US News & World Report, “In 2017, US civilians held an average of 120.5 firearms per 100 people, the highest rate in the world by a factor of more than two….In other words: The United States was the only country with more civilian-held guns than citizens.” From a political standpoint, it is frustrating to see the way that other countries handle these tragedies and then immediately implement a policy. Why can’t the US follow their lead? In Canada, according to the Council on Foreign Relations, one incident at a Montreal engineering school “is widely credited with driving major gun reforms that imposed a 28-day waiting period for purchases; mandatory safety training courses; more detailed background checks; bans on large-capacity magazines; and bans or greater restrictions on military-style firearms and ammunition.” Countries like Australia, Israel, the United Kingdom, Norway and Japan have followed the same lead implementing policies right after the first incident occurred.  

The United States needs to follow suit of other countries and implement background checks and ban automatic weapons. As of 2022, according to the Council on Foreign Relations, “Mass shootings–those with at least four victims–were occurring at a rate of at least one per day.” This is a very real problem and if action isn’t taken, more lives will inevitably be lost. This issue is rooted in the Second Amendment and its interpretation. When it was written, according to Find Laws, Legal Help, and Attorneys, “Many historians agree that the primary reason for passing the Second Amendment was to prevent the need for the United States to have a professional standing army. At the time it was passed, it seems it was not intended to grant a right for private individuals to keep weapons for self-defense.” When children are dying every day, safety must become more important than this Amendment.