Staff editorial: School shootings should prompt better methods to stop shooters, not fortress building

March 22, 2018 — by Amy Tang and Alex Wang
  • “17 killed in mass shooting at high school in Parkland, Florida.”

  • “Sandy Hook Elementary shooting leaves 28 dead, law enforcement says.”

  • “Kentucky school shooting: 2 students killed, 18 injured.”

These horrific events have left families broken, peers saddened and the nation in dismay. The killing at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., marked the eighth school shooting of 2018.

Over the years, school shootings have become unnervingly common. A New York Times article using data from Gun Violence Archive found that there have been 239 cases of school shootings nationwide since 2014 culminating in 438 people being shot.

A school like Saratoga High is often considered very safe, but so were the schools where other major mass shootings occurred. Stoneman Douglas is a high school akin to our own, where students come from affluent families and compete for admission into top colleges. However, when a fire alarm was pulled and students poured out into the halls to become the shooting targets of a crazed gunman, it didn’t matter how prestigious the school was, how secure their walls were or how many Code Red drills they had practiced.

So how can authorities keep students safe in school?

One solution is to allow teachers and staff members to carry guns on campus — a poorly thought-out idea at best.

For instance, in Kentucky, a bill that would allow teachers and staff to have weapons with a concealed carry permit is now being discussed. The guns themselves would be locked up until an active shooter situation arises.

This measure may be based on good intentions, but its effectiveness is questionable.

In both the Florida and Kentucky shootings, there were armed guards on campus. But neither of them used their weapons against the shooter. Arming teachers and offering them a bonus for signing up to possess a gun is an especially thoughtless idea.

They signed up to be educators, not law enforcement officers. Being able to shoot a gun effectively in a high-pressure situation requires expertise and constant training.

Another notion suggested by lawmakers is to further protect schools by implementing tighter security. Evaluators from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) have commented on how open the school’s field and track is to the public and recommended closing it off.

However, ideas like this are an overreaction. Blocking off a valued part of the schools would be needless hassle for students and community members. Limiting community access would mostly serve to cut off the school from the valued community members who have provided the support to build facilities such as the track and new music building.

One myth is that the school was designed by the same architect who designed San Quentin. By arming teachers and putting all these security measures in place, the school would begin to feel like a prison.

Besides the obvious gun control laws needed to limit the number of deadly weapons in communities, schools can still play their part in helping to keep students safe without needing to build expensive infrastructure. This consists of adopting better strategies to identify potential shooters and stop them if such an event occurs.

It is also critical that schools work with local law enforcement and the FBI in determining possible dangers because these agencies may be actively monitoring suspicious activity both online and in person. For example, Nikolas Cruz, the 19-year-old arrested for the shooting at Parkland, showed many warning signs that were ignored, such as comments about how he said he was going to be a “professional school shooter” and FBI tips about how he had an arsenal of weapons and “is going to explode.”

But schools themselves can only do so much. The heart of the movement for stricter gun laws belongs to students like those in Parkland, who are taking action and making themselves heard. Even if we have not been impacted by such traumatic events, students should become more politically involved to prevent further tragedies from occuring.

Students shouldn’t fear going to school for any reason other than having a difficult test that day. The fact that there is still debate over gun regulation is appalling, considering that the safety of all children is at stake.

As a school and community, we should focus on being keenly aware of our surroundings and ready to report threats. In addition, individuals should take it upon themselves to learn about what is happening in the world. And if they find any injustices, they should take action. From walkouts to marches to boycotts and eventually voting, students have the power to reshape our country and make it a safer place.