School Shootings: What has happened to our safe schools?

What has happened to our safe schools? The term 'active shooter in school' is becoming all too familiar. It's heart breaking and gut wrenching. I simply can't imagine what these latest parents are going through, or what the parents before them went through, or even the ones before that. I don’t even want to ponder what the children went though. Children who died at the location where they were required to be. Children who died while laughing, learning, and just being a kid. It brings tears. Our children’s safe place is being stolen away, one shot at a time. Teachers are being robbed of a safe work environment, one shot at a time.A parent’s sense of security is being stripped away, one shot at a time.

It’s all unfathomable. Unimaginable. Unthinkable. To fix a problem though, we must face the problem. We shouldn't tiptoe around it, only talk about it for a fleeting moment, and then move on. It's a vicious pattern that keeps repeating itself. It has become a cycle of catastrophe. I don’t know the answer though. I do know this is big. It’s bigger than me. It's bigger than you. It’s bigger than any single person.

I might not know the answer, but I can assure you that it's something I think about. After all, I'm a teacher. I'm married to a teacher. I have children in school. My family is positioned in five different schools on any given day.

This is a national epidemic. The news reports state that we have had 18 shootings in schools within the first two months of 2018. EIGHTEEN. They stretch across the country, and no one is immune. It's becoming common place. Shootings in our schools are happening so often that we don’t question if it will happen again, we wonder when it will happen. It’s a brokenness that has become the breaking news on far too many occasions.

 Cafeterias were once seen as dining and gathering places, not as a vulnerable large crowd. Classroom doors once remained open and learning could be heard. Fire alarms once signaled smoke, but now they instill fear and make you question if it's legit. Calculating how to create chaos was the latest choice plan. With the simple sound of something our children had been trained to respond to. Kids didn't flee to safety. They walked right into the fire. Gunfire!

There was a time when teachers, students, and parents thought such tragedies could only happen in other communities. We are quickly realizing that no one is immune to this latest national terror. And it is national. We can't deny it. One look at a map of the 18 latest schools proves just that.

School Shootings

When I imagine school, I think of a bright and happy place, full of learning and fun. We as educators work hard to maintain that feeling of hope and success. It's what we do. It saddens me to think that children, even high school kids, are gradually being robbed of feeling that school is a safe place. Yes, we as educators are there to try and counteract that fear by making it a warm and inviting place to be. We don't dwell on the worry, but I can assure you, it's in the back of our minds. We plan, engage, and strive to make the classroom a place students want to come to each day. What we have to realize though, is the harm being done to the psyche of our school children and even to our teachers. Our once open doors are now key padded entries. You can't help but think about the tragedies each time you place your key in the lock. And now, after the latest. I can assure you that I, and many others, will think of these 17 deaths each time the fire alarm sounds in our schools.

When solutions are talked about, it tends to become political and sometimes heated. We can talk about gun control, about better mental healthcare, about metal detectors on all doors in schools and so much more. But in the end, this is about solutions and saving lives. It's about salvaging our safe schools.

This is big though. Big problems need big solutions; bigger than one school, one community, and even one state. What is the answer? Possibly we need more counselors in schools. Perhaps we do need better mental health care. Is it conceivable to put metal detectors on all entries to all schools? Would safe-school government funding provide resources and personal needed? Will it take an act of Congress?

As I ponder the question about what can be done, I realize this is a complicated issue. Safe guarding entries to high schools seems to be far more difficult than at the elementary level. For me personally, I feel quite safe where I work. All doors are locked at all times. It's a step in the right direction. But I also know that not all systems have that safe guard in place. Funding and priorities can throw up a roadblock.

For now, I feel that we as a nation need to remain vigilant in seeking solutions. We need to work towards ending the cycle of praying, debating, and moving on until a short time passes.... moving on until we tune in yet again to the latest breaking news of "active shooter in school".

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