The Columbine massacre occurred 19 years ago. It is barely older than today’s high school students, and only 21 months older than I am.
Since then, there have been 25 more fatal shootings inflicted by active shooters in schools with children 18 and younger, as Fox News’ Shepard Smith stated on his Wednesday, Feb. 14 show.
These schools are randomly located, and these shootings don’t directly impact most schools. But all students are affected. The unpredictability leaves many scared, wondering, “Will my school be next?” Yet, each day, students return to these institutions in which they aren’t sure they feel safe.
The rates of school shootings are higher than ever before, so naturally, people are discussing gun control and statistics. But discussing long-term legislative solutions, as vital it is, will do nothing to alleviate the fear of students who do not feel safe right now.
I am lucky I am not one of these students. I am lucky I feel safe.
One recent Thursday morning, student leaders at my New York City high school organized a school-wide assembly to reflect on the Parkland killing, the latest in this slew of school shootings. The student leaders also reminded everyone they could contact deans or the school’s mental health counselors if anyone had “any concerns about (themselves) or a friend’s well-being.”
With the full support of our administration, students and teachers took to an open microphone to voice any thoughts or feelings they had and wanted to share.
The messages ranged from expressions of fear and anger, to calls for more mental health help and gun control.
Many students explained how the sheer frequency of these horrific school shootings is slowly normalizing them in our minds. They wanted to do something, but didn’t know how they could have an immediate impact.
What they didn’t realize was that they already had.
This school assembly showed that my school is a community that cares about and takes responsibility for the well being of its members. Students were vulnerable and honest in front of each other, reflecting the trust my school works hard to build.
And with administrators expressing their unwavering support for all students, and describing the safety procedures in place, I knew they cared. I knew I could trust my community to keep me safe. I knew I was in a space that worked exceptionally hard to counteract the causes that could lead a student to pull the trigger.
Activist Stephen Said stated in a 2015 Huffington Post story, “Every child of ours could become a killer, or a changemaker. It is up to us to give them the necessary moral consistency, inspiration and support to become the latter.” And my school did just that.
I came away feeling supported and inspired to take a stand.
All students have a right to feel safe in schools, and our assembly was one example of how schools can start to make students feel safe again.
Physically, students should not have to fear that shooters will enter their campus and cause fatalities.
Mentally, students should feel supported by their schools, despite any personal hardships, so they don’t get to the dire point of hurting their student body permanently.
I feel unbelievably lucky to be a member of a community that stresses the importance of love and support, and allows for school-wide discussion and debate. And maybe it’s naïve to think fostering a community in the truest sense of the word will prevent school shootings, but I truly believe it can only do good.
And I wish more students were as lucky as I am to feel safe in school.
So to all the students, administrators and teachers out there, please make your community feel safe.