Over the last two weeks the news once again was filled with stories of yet another school shooting. A gunman brought several weapons to Umpqua Community College where he killed 10 students and injured seven more. Whenever these tragic stories hit the news, we as a country tend to react by throwing more security into the schools to try to shield our young people from such violence. But is it working? Or are we doing more harm than good?
School shootings have become all too common in the news. While there is no consensus on how to count “mass shootings,” a growing number of commentators believe the number of incidents have risen sharply in the last several decades. President Obama voiced his frustration in his 15th press statement regarding a mass shooting during his presidency:
“Somehow this has become routine. The reporting is routine. My response here at this podium ends up being routine, the conversation in the aftermath of it … We have become numb to this.”
In response to these shootings, over the last several decades, schools have cracked down on weapons, expanding weapons bans to include staff and visitors. They have hired private security and partnered with local police to create visible, concrete protections against the threat. In some places, schools are more tightly secure than courthouses, using metal detectors and pat downs to keep guns away.
Umpqua Community College was no exception. In a press interview, the president of the college reported that they had hired private security and had implemented lock-down drills at the school, as well as creating a close partnership with local authorities. She did note, however, that security guards on campus were not armed. Now commentators on both sides of the debate will argue that security was not enough. Gun advocates will say the security should have been armed, and gun control advocates will say the college should have done more to keep weapons out.
What none of these commentators really take time to consider is how all this security affects the students who go through it day after day. What is the psychological affect of having to pass through a metal detector every morning? What do students learn while they practice hunkering behind their desks during a lock-down drill?
They learn that they are not safe. They learn that all these layers of protection are necessary because no one seems to be able to prevent school shootings from happening. They learn to be scared.
That is the problem with school security. It’s that all these security officers (armed and unarmed), checkpoints, and lock-down drills don’t stop shooters on a mission. But they do teach children to be afraid and teach our country as a whole that we can not be safe. Maybe, instead of erecting barriers to keep shooters out of our schools, it is time for this country to really look at why they are out to kill in the first place. What pushes them to the point that their own lives matter so little they would rather go down shooting than live quietly in their discontent? Those are the questions we should be asking. Not about gun control or mental health, specifically, but about why we are teaching a generation to kill and be afraid they will be killed.
Lisa J. Schmidt is a school lawyer at Schmidt Law Services, PLLC, in Ferndale, Michigan. She represents students at disciplinary hearings and in juvenile court. If you know someone who is facing suspension or expulsion, contact Schmidt Law Services today for a free consultation.