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High School Shootings: South Elgin High School’s Concern

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High School Shootings: South Elgin High School’s Concern

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“A lot of these school shootings are starting to hit home, and we say wait that school looks just like our school that’s why our kids are on alarm,” Associate Principle Krystal Bush for South Elgin High School (SEHS) estates.

Graph comparing mass shootings in the United States compared to other countries.

The increase in mass shootings in the United States has risen alarmingly. Schools being one of the most significant targets in the country have changed many things being implemented in the school system all across the nation. From gun safety, mental health, and awareness, students are taking action all around the country along with staff and parents who are deeply concerned about the overall educational environment.

When I was in high school a few years ago, I would have never imagined the state of fear students go through now. South Elgin High School where I graduated in 2013 has not changed much physically. The students and faculty are prepared and cooperating with each other on a daily basis. I wouldn’t have imagined SEHS like that back in the day. Lanyards and IDs used to be an issue with my class. Now all students at SEHS wear lanyards with their IDs on them because they understand the seriousness of the recent school shootings that took place all over the nation. SEHS is committed to a safe learning environment for all students and staff.

Ms. Bush has been in the education department for 28 years where she first started teaching, she taught elementary early on, worked in high schools since 2000 and eventually became Associate Principle of South Elgin High School in 2015. Dean Jeff Livingood is right next door to her who has also been in the education department for 28 years. Both agree on one thing though. Through the span of their careers, gun safety is becoming a much more prominent concern than ever before.

Mr. Holmes one of the guidance counselors for SEHS students shares the same opinion as Ms. Bush and Mr. Livingood. Mr. Holmes has been a counselor for 12 years and might know some of the students better than other adults. He helps students above and beyond, makes sure the students assigned to him properly finish high school and pushes them as much as he can.

“With everything going on nowadays we have to be super aware because it could happen here, you know everyone is on guard,” Mr. Holmes expressed.

As the recent school shootings have occurred all over the United States, the growing concern for school safety has become a big issue for the country. With the recent Parkland shooting taking place in Florida, many high schools across the country participated in a national walkout day to raise awareness for gun safety. SEHS was not one to shy away and also participated in the walkout.

“The students planned everything, we were there just to support them and give them any tools like bullhorns, and just guided them with how they wanted to do it.”

Ms. Bush was very eager to help plan the two National walkouts that happened on March 14 and April 20 of 2018. The walkouts had started with the Florida Stone Douglas High School students that used social media to promote the day leading with a viral hashtag that said “#neveragain.” Mr. Holmes was very enthusiastic when I asked about the walkouts.

“These walkouts are a demonstration and an example of how fed up the kids are, they have great ideas that tell you nationwide students are saying enough is enough.”

The walkouts happened to be a success but how effective were they for students is debatable. As the staff was pro-active in the walkouts, for some students it didn’t seem that way. Jesus Sanchez, a senior at SEHS who is planning on going into aviation technology and flight school to eventually become a pilot, had a slightly different take on the walkouts.

“The first one I felt like 60% of the students were not paying attention, on their phones, and in their groups, not caring about the speeches that were taking place”.

I could tell Jesus was deeply hurt by this action of his classmates as he continued saying,

“Kids our age that look just like us died, and it keeps happening, but it’s like no one cares,” as he takes a pause, “maybe that’s not true because the second walkout proved otherwise.”

The second walkout was held on April 20th nationally. SEHS had different plans in mind the second time around. Instead of walking out of the school for an hour, they had opened the auditorium for students to have open discussions and debates.

The Auditorium which held the second walkout for South Elgin High School.

Jesus told me,” The second walkout was much better because everyone participated and it was much more relatable since it was open debates and discussions among classmates about safety, school shootings, and gun control.”

School shootings have been on the rise in 2018. According to CNN, there have been twenty-one shootings reported on school property in 2018 alone. With the most violent one being the Parkland shooting in Florida, the concern for schools has risen whereas the debate over gun control is a hotter topic than ever.

“If it were up to me, I would get rid of every single gun, firearm, and shotguns there are, all these shootings have become a much bigger concern whether it’s the Sandy-Hook shooting, Parkland shooting or any other it’s got to stop. There are many factors in each case but guns seem to be the the prominent object in every story, ” guidance counselor Mr. Holmes expressed.

Speaking freely he added, “I sometimes have this fear in the back of my head now every-time I come into school, that these shootings can happen here too since it’s been regular high schools just like ours that have been through this trauma.”

Mr. Livingood is in charge of the safety precautions done at the school. From cafeteria to I.D checks to locking up all the entrances, Mr. Livingood has implemented a plan.

School cop is monitoring the outside cameras and manning the main doors.

“We have 52 doors that are locked from 7:40 am to 2:55 pm; the main entrance is only accessible through a buzz while we have an [officer] located by the main doors, he can see each exit through cameras. IDs also help us a lot, and over time it became a culture for students always to have their IDs on also the kids have bought into us telling them over the years if you see something say something. We make sure all our students comply by having assembly’s every week”. Mr. Livingood describes.

In SEHS an incident happened a few days after the Parkland shooting, a student decided to take a snap with a shotgun, underneath a caption saying “hey S.E better watch out,” immediately the students told school authorities of the snap.

“The original snap didn’t have the caption, but someone took a screenshot and put the caption underneath, we found the student in the picture, but we moved him to another school for his safety. He became well known in a short amount of time but not in a good way. He didn’t have malicious intent, but because of the climate with all the mass shootings, nothing is taken lightly”.

As Associate Principle Bush explains this to me, I noticed in her tone she felt a little sorry for the student that took the picture. The incident went viral all over SEHS which resulted in everyone in the school know what the student did, his name, and his face which made him a marked man. The state of how dangerous these issues have gotten is alarming. She described similar instances that weren’t so viral.

“We had to remove this one student even though he might not have been a threat but we cannot take anything lightly.”

One of Mr. Holmes students was removed after texting another student he was going to bring a gun to school so we can have a week off.

“We had the mom here and the student both defending themselves for it to not be taken too seriously but unfortunately you can’t be doing that nowadays, we have to take action immediately. You can’t be doing that especially after a big tragedy,” Mr. Holmes explained.

Expulsion without speaking to the student at all is like sending someone to prison without going through a trial. I felt a bit sympathetic towards the student, in the aftermath of speaking to them I realized how nationwide yet local the gun issue has become.

“The conversation is out of the way, and the community is looking for punishment they want to punish before someone is even fully guilty. One little mess up and you are out of here. Unfortunately, that’s the road it’s going, I am not for it, but I do understand the distress”. Ms. Bush explains.

The ongoing gun debate in the United States has been going on for quite some time. Schools are the second most likely places in the United States to have a mass shooting occur next to businesses. While politicians continue to argue if guns are safe or not, one question has always been debated, are guns too easy to access?

 

Graph depicting the places of highest risk of a mass shooting.

 

According to Teen Vogue, private sellers don’t have to do background checks, incomplete background checks from official stores and even suspected terrorists can buy weapons. If the FBI background check takes over three days, then you can purchase the gun without completing the background check, which is how the shooter at the black church in Charleston, South Carolina, got away with it even though he had admitted to drug possession.

Graph showing The United States leading in gun ownership compared to other countries.

Mass shootings have become a growing phenomenon in the United States resulting in the highest number of shootings reported in any other country. Schools and businesses represent seven out of ten active shootings that occur in the U.S with most significant shootings to take place in schools. Some of the biggest names were Sandy Hook, San Bernardino, and the most recent Parkland shooting.

Citizens of the United States own more guns than people from any other country. The debate over gun control is always a hot topic soon after a mass shooting occurs especially in schools. As the gun debates rise, so does the demand for guns since people are also afraid to lose them. After the San Bernardino tragedy in 2015, over three million firearms were purchased. Three of the top five deadliest shootings in the United States happened in 2016-2017. Las Vegas with 58 dead, Orlando with 49 dead, and Sutherland Springs with 26 dead, all occurred within the 2 year period.

Graph showing the increase of deaths due to mass shootings from 2013-2017.

About 10 years ago school shootings at this rate were unthinkable. Since the Sandy Hook tragedy in 2012, there have been similar instances that happened 300 times since then. The number of deaths in mass shootings has increased every year since 2013. There were 288 people killed in mass shootings with the number growing each year to where we have 437 people that died in 2017.

The debate between republicans and democrats about stricter gun laws goes on with both sides disagreeing. Voters from both parties agree to have stronger background checks and mental screening done on the purchaser. Yet opinions on semi-automatic weapons like AK-47 and AR-15 are debated among   the parties whether to ban them or not. Choosing the voice for your party is the biggest divide the republicans and democrats have. 65% of Republicans would support a leader backed by the National Rifle Association (gun rights group) whereas 80% of Democrats would not. The NRA has much influence over the gun debate whether you agree with them or not. They are a dividing force among the voters that impact the outcome of the voice for the specific party.

Gun law debates effect the youth regularly, changes in laws are happening but at a slow rate.  The increase in shootings over the span of years has made some people numb. For the students though, they are living a nightmare with fear in the back of their heads every day in a place where they are supposed to learn. I did not have that fear in high school, but as I spoke to Jesus, I realized how personally effected they are by this issue.

“You wake up one day and realize a school just like yours! And kids just like me are shot down! It’s sad and I am hurt so bad that some adults still think it’s not that serious, well what if it was your child. I wish people would wake up and understand this shouldn’t be a norm”, Jesus passionately told me.

SEHS is prepared for many emergencies including shootings as every school has to be. The easy accessibility of guns needs to change in order to go back to a non-hostile environment for students. With nationwide walkouts and demonstrations happening all over the United States, gun laws in the present must change in order to have a brighter future.

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High School Shootings: South Elgin High School’s Concern