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Classroom Voices

Student Voice: How gun violence has ravaged the education experience in America

August 6, 2019

Mourners take part in a vigil near the border fence in Ciudad Juarez between Mexico and the U.S. after a mass shooting at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, Aug. 3, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Sanchez

Editor’s note: As students headed back to school this week, they did so following two deadly mass shootings over the weekend in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. Some of those killed in an El Paso Walmart were buying school supplies for their children. In this Student Voice, Colorado high school student Lily Wilshire, whose Denver school was closed for three days this past spring following a shooting threat — right after a school shooting had occurred just miles away and only weeks after schools across the state had been cancelled following a different threat — shares why she is infuriated to be a student in America right now.

Lily Wilshire, high school senior. Photo courtesy of Lily Wilshire

by Lily Wilshire, senior at South High School in Denver, Colorado

I wrote this sitting at home on a Thursday morning in May. I had missed three days of class due to a school shooting threat.

Two days prior, senior Kendrick Castillo was the latest victim of gun violence in the U.S. He was shot and killed in a school shooting just a dozen miles away. Instead of attending his graduation, his family attended his funeral.

“To say that gun violence has consumed and ravaged the education experience in America is an understatement.”

As students, we carry a great deal of fear in going to school. We practice lockdown drills at school regularly. We’ve memorized where we would hide in each of our classrooms, if a shooting were to start. You don’t want to be in a third floor classroom because it’s harder to jump out the windows, if you have to. When the lockdown starts you need to turn off the lights and hide in the corner, so someone in the doorway can’t see you. If you’re in the bathroom when the lockdown starts, you need to stand on the toilet in a stall, so they can’t see your feet.

This is the reality of being a student in America right now. And it’s infuriating. We are
angry and we deserve to be. Our politicians are failing us. A lot of people don’t want to make school shootings “political,” but the truth is that it is in every way political. It just shouldn’t be controversial. I cannot believe that we need to debate whether or not kids being killed in school is normal.

“This is the reality of being a student in America right now. And it’s infuriating.

We need policy change. But most young people–often the direct victims of gun violence and our country’s lack of gun control–aren’t old enough to vote. The people creating gun legislation have no idea what it’s like to crouch in the corner and pray that the classroom door doesn’t open and a shooter walks through it. As much as we’re desperate for change, our voices can’t yet be represented.

I think I speak for most students in America right now when I beg people to do
something. If you can vote, vote. If you can march, march. If you have a phone, call your legislators. Don’t let yourself grow numb to this. This will keep happening, and kids will keep dying, until people finally say that enough is enough. Until then, we are all just waiting and hoping that we’re not next.

Share your voice! If you have an idea for an opinion piece, consider sending a pitch to NewsHour Classroom’s Student Voice blog. The blog is full of powerful, original pieces by middle and high school students. Write Vic Pasquantonio at

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