We deserve to feel safe at school

Alex Carlon ’21 discusses how fears of school shootings are diminishing students’ quality of education.

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Alex Carlon

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“I can’t focus on what my teacher is saying because I’m thinking about school shootings.”

This was a statement made by a friend during a conversation about school security. As we continued to discuss our concerns about a shooting in our community, one central theme emerged: our fears about a potential tragedy at school were overriding our desire to get an education. 

As students in 2019, we’ve become attuned to certain things. We flinch when we hear a locker slam. We stake out the best exit route in our classrooms. We look twice when we see strangers in the halls and we think twice when we hear the fire alarm. But is this the way it has to be? 

Our country has received a great deal of warnings about the effects of guns on our nation’s students. Over 230 warnings, to be exact. Yet our country and our community still fail to recognize that with each new tragedy, our propensity for learning lessens. Our thirst for knowledge becomes a sense of dread for the seemingly inevitable. As one Santa Fe high school student put it, “it’s been happening everywhere, I’ve always felt like it would eventually happen here.”

The thing is, making our school more secure isn’t just about keeping out the forces of evil in our country. It’s about ensuring that students feel safe enough to let themselves be immersed in their courses. It’s about allowing us to close the tab of our brains that’s thinking about the possibility of a shooting, and be fully present. 

[School safety] is about allowing us to close the tab of our brains that’s thinking about the possibility of a shooting, and be fully present. ”

— Alex Carlon '21

A 2018 survey by the Children’s Defense Fund ranks school shootings the second most common worry among students ages 6 to 17. This issue is widespread and needs to be addressed. While increased awareness and advocacy are important steps, students cannot be the only ones driving the change. It’s up to the adults in our community, policymakers, to listen and act on our concerns.

On Sept. 18, 2019, a loaded gun was found in the backpack of a student at Tate High School, just 5 miles from West. In the weeks since the incident, I know I have felt less secure in my classroom, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this sentiment was echoed by my peers. 

The people in charge understand that students need to be kept safe. However, until they are able to understand the realities of being a student in 2019, it is doubtful that change will be enacted at any level. Though stricter state and local gun control laws are no doubt the concrete step we need to take to eradicate these tragedies, we as students still have the ability to bring about change from the bottom up. 

Staying informed about the decisions our local officials are making, voicing our opinions through social media and attending public forums are just a few examples of ways we can voice our concerns. Whether we have the backing of school officials or not, we must fight to keep learning at the forefront of students’ minds – not the fear of a gunman entering their class.