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Classroom Voices

How teens want to solve America's school shooting problem

December 6, 2021

This story originally appeared in 2018, following the school shooting massacre in Parkland, Florida.

Middle and high school students across the country shared their thoughts on gun violence with the NewsHour after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, in 2018. We thought you’d like to read their voices, since they were very clear in wanting to share them.

We should not have to beg the U.S. to stop letting our friends die

by Carly Novell, 12th grade, Marjory Douglas Stoneman High School, Parkland, Florida

On average, there are about 13,000 deaths in the United States resulting from gun violence each year. Seventeen of those deaths were people I attended school with. People I passed in the halls everyday.

Not many realize how much the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students are grieving. We are traumatized. We are scared. But we are ignoring all of that because we are trying to make a difference. We haven’t had a minute to process or grieve. We are just trying to make sure that this does not happen again. We, as high school students who just went through something traumatic, are forced to beg and plead for change.

Something needs to be done to get semi-automatic guns out of the hands of civilians. Something needs to be done to get firearms out of the hands of the mentally ill. It should not be so easy to obtain a gun. We should not have to beg the U.S. to stop letting our friends die. The NRA has silenced our government for too long. We will not be silenced by the media, by the government, by the president, by the NRA or by anyone for that matter.

I am a proud supporter of the right to own a firearm. Notice I said firearm, not weapon

by Aaron, 12th grade, Alexandria, Indiana

I am a proud supporter of the right to own a firearm. Notice I said firearm, not weapon. A weapon is something used in a harmful manner. Firearms don’t kill people, ignorant people do.

To start with, yes, firearms need to be regulated. Fully automatics are not needed. Bump stocks really don’t matter because with a semi-automatic rifle, the rifle fires as fast as you pull the trigger.

As far as security, schools should have only one entrance and teachers should be given the choice to be armed. Not all educators need to be armed, and no one should be required to do so. Part of the application should include a mental health assessment and a background check. There is no reason why stores should have better security than schools.

We need to find a way to solve these school shootings as a country. Other countries are sitting back watching the U.S. tear itself apart from the inside. Let’s go back to the time that if you had a problem, you just knocked the other person out. You didn’t shoot them.

Students need a designated time to center themselves for school

by Nathan, 12th grade, Chicago, Illinois

One solution is social-emotional learning. Before school, after school and during lunch period, there should be chill-spaces for students to de-stress, talk to a counselor and get themselves ready for the day.

Students have lives outside of school filled with experiences that are either traumatic, mentally exhausting or triggering. A designated time to center themselves for the school day would help. While this solution does not solve the problem of guns in the streets, it does help provide outlets for students who have mental health issues.

A multi-pronged approach to guns is needed, not changes to the Second Amendment

by Maria, 10th grade, Bronx, New York

“A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

These words, adopted in the Constitution of the United States on December 15, 1791, are not to blame for the recent shootings in the first several weeks of 2018.

The solution to school shootings is regulation of gun laws, not problems with the Second Amendment. It’s not having students practice lock-downs out of fear that an attack like Parkland could happen at their school. And it also doesn’t involve getting caught up in the political ruckus surrounding the the election of 2016. Such behavior serves only as an excuse for our nation to not accomplish its goals, including keeping children safe.

As for gun regulations, our government could learn from other countries like Japan, Australia and the United Kingdom. Japan puts its citizens through a rigorous set of tests which includes a mandatory all-day class. From there, they must take a written test, have a 95 percent accuracy on a shooting-range test, a mental health evaluation and a background check. If that seems like a lot, Japanese citizens must then retake the class and the exam every three years.

Australia paid citizens to sell their firearms back to the government. Firearm homicides in that country dropped 0.15 per 100,000 people in 2006 compared to 0.37 in 1995.

The United States should use a multi-pronged approach in order to take us out of this deep depression. Our leaders need to start giving us hope by taking action.

White privilege is real and Parkland was a clear example of it

by Mya, 11th grade, McKinney, Texas

The problem America has is that we give everyone a gun without any mental health testing. We need to be more like other countries and require screenings. You can’t blame the entire problem of gun violence on the mentally ill either. We need stricter laws when it comes to gun control. Also, it should be illegal for a politician to take money from an organization such as the NRA.
Politicians who choose money over children’s lives are heartless human beings.

After seeing the event unfold on television, this incident made me realize that we don’t just have a gun control issue, but we also have a race issue. If the shooter was a different race other than white, they would’ve killed him on the spot instead of arresting him. Race should not be a factor when it comes to life or death. White privilege is real and Parkland was a clear example of it.

Right to live outweighs the right to shoot

by Ryan Deitsch, 12th grade, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Parkland, Florida

This country is a place I truly love; this government, however, has not gained my favor. Those in leadership consolidate power instead of legislate it. There is no good and bad I see here, only what is right for the American people, what is right for all people. I don’t want to infringe on the rights of man, but the right to live should far outweigh the right to shoot.

Thoughts and prayers are one of many coping mechanisms, and I praise those who put myself and others in their hearts, however, humanity is here to care for the Earth bestowed upon us. I see no better way to care for the world than to protect the lives of the innocent and take action where it must be taken.

I have had enough of sitting around while adults do nothing

by Eden, 12th grade, Iowa City, Iowa

When I was 10, one of my friends and classmates was murdered. His father beat him, his three siblings, and their mother to death with a bat. Afterwards, Seth’s father called the police to report the deaths and fled the home.

At the time, there was a great deal of confusion. No one knew where he was. No one knew if he was armed. No one knew what he might do. Fearing that he might come to the school, Longfellow Elementary went into lockdown. In Mrs. Dillard’s second-grade class, we sat in silence. The teachers said nothing. They didn’t know what to say. How can you explain something like this to a child? We knew nothing. And so we sat in our corner, in the dark and in the silence.

I have had enough silence.

I have had enough of being in the dark. I have had enough of sitting around while adults do nothing. I am not content with being in the corner anymore.

Change will not come on its own. We have to make it for ourselves. The adults have proven that they are unwilling to move beyond thoughts and prayers. We must force them into action.

That includes my own senators: Joni Ernst, who has accepted millions of dollars from the NRA, and Chuck Grassley, who has accepted hundreds of thousands. Is this how much our lives are worth?

We may not have the power, the resources, or even the ability to vote, but we do have our voices. In America, there is no weapon more powerful.

For me, this conversation started with Seth, and with my own fear that followed. The next school year, we planted trees behind Longfellow for each member of the family. They’ve grown now, leaves sprouting and dying and falling with the seasons. Their branches have faded into the background, blending with the lines of trees behind them. But after ten years, I think their roots are finally spreading.

My family is scared to send me to school

by Kearra, 11th grade, McKinney, Texas

“What are we supposed to do? Send our kids to school with bulletproof vests?” My mom said to me yesterday. Instead of worrying about our grades and relationships, we have to worry if we are going to survive a day at school. The American people have a right to buy and own guns, but I also have a right to be able to go to school and not worry about dying. My right to live outweighs any gun rights. How many more people have to die before something is done?

My whole family is scared to send my siblings and I to school every morning because they don’t know if we are going to make it home. Every day that we sit around and do nothing about the shootings and guns, we are killing more innocent people. The U.S. is number one in shootings and mass incarceration. President Trump doesn’t want to face the fact that something needs to be done. Without the support of the American people, he wouldn’t have a country to lead. It’s the duty of the president to do everything in his power to protect the citizens. We have to make our voices heard and strive for change. Is a gun worth more than my life?

READ: OPINION: A student’s obituary should never say ‘gunned down while studying for chemistry’

We already have gun control. We do need to do something to help the mentally ill.

by Katie, 11th grade, Parker, Colorado

The media in general provides a liberal stance on the gun debate. Weapons come in many different forms, and a common misconception in our country is that we would be safer without guns. Even though improvements to gun policy could prove to be beneficial, they will never end the violence that has come to play a part in our education system.

However, we do need to do something to help the mentally ill instead of arbitrarily restricting already existing gun regulations. Nikolas Cruz had a well-known history of firearm obsession. Cruz was even evaluated by behavioral health experts, yet he was not hospitalized or detained. We could have helped him before this tragedy unfolded in front of our eyes.

Teenagers’ brains are not yet fully developed. Why can they buy guns?

by Cecilia, 11th grade, New Orleans, Louisiana

After listening to a story on NPR, I encountered a fact by a neuroscientist about brain development for the average 18-year-old. The prefrontal cortex of teenagers is not yet fully developed. This is the part of the brain that helps you to control impulses and make smart decisions in times of stress.

If 18 is the legal age to buy a gun, then I see a huge problem with this. I believe we should adjust the legal age requirement for someone to own a gun. These are steps Congress needs to take so that other high school students like me don’t have to worry about experiencing another terrifying and tragic attack.

School shootings give responsible gun owners a bad name

by Kenneth, 12th grade, McKinney, Texas

Practically, there is not a solution. Based on inevitable mathematical probability, someone somewhere with gun access will carry out a school shooting. Theoretically, the only surefire way to prevent a school shooting is to prevent guns from getting into civilian hands whether illegal or legal firearms.

What needs to happen instead is education. We need to educate the public about guns in order to prevent firearm ignorance. We should have mandatory gun safety classes in school and teach young people what a firearm is, the tools and parts of the gun and what purposes they serve. Even with one gun in public circulation, there will be a potential but very slim chance of a shooting. School shootings give responsible gun owners and guns a bad name. Gun restrictions will not get rid of school shootings, even if every single student in school had the discipline of a soldier and proper training. It’s not the guns, it’s the people holding them.

We have to stop judging others

by Misti, 12th grade, Graham, Washington

The problems our society is experiencing right now have more to do with how we treat each other than gun control. We judge people based on their looks, especially if they look sketchy or just different. We see someone who is quiet or a kid who is always getting into trouble, and we judge them without know what they have been through. Society makes fun of those type of people. As teenagers, we constantly pick on someone until they are down on the ground. It’s like we are trying to kill someone who may already feel dead inside. You see all of these shows about criminals, and some of them are about murders, and it intrigues us. The real problem is us.

Some may wonder how such people came into power

by Gabe, 12th grade, Flint, Michigan

The right to bear arms is a fundamental freedom enjoyed in the United States. However, this does not mean there shouldn’t be regulations on the sale and production of these arms. Without laws, we are faced with the problem of unashamed maniacs and domestic terrorists. The simplest solution to this complex issue seems to be tighter restrictions and more cohesive background and mental state checks. Now, of course this will not take all guns off the street and black market, but it will prevent people who shouldn’t have guns from purchasing them. Or at least make it harder to.

Unfortunately, with the presidential administration we currently have, and the lobbyists paying thousands and thousands to either campaign as a way to curry favor with whomever wins, we won’t see a mandate demanding any of these proposed solutions anytime soon. The gun industry is convoluted and has a tight grip on the politicians, who are forced to do the industry’s bidding. The same lawmakers are aware of the hundreds and thousands of dollars they receive from the NRA (National Rifle Association). Some may wonder how such people came into power.

I have had my hunting license since I was in fifth grade. We need to make it harder to buy firearms.

by Morgan, 12th grade, Anderson, Indiana

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against people having guns. I have grown up in a house full of firearms and hunting bows. I have had my hunting license since I was in fifth grade. However, many people my age struggle with mental health. Some take it to extreme levels, like taking guns from their home to school and shooting innocent people.

As a country, we also need to make it harder to buy firearms. Only certain guns should allowed to be sold to the average joe. Not only should we add more regulations, but we should add a tax when buying a firearm, like we do for cigarettes and alcohol — items that may bring harm to ourselves or others.

Public schools needs to use security tactics similar to other institutions

by Bridget, 12th grade, Gretna, Nebraska

There are several measures that could have been taken to prevent the Parkland, Florida school shooting, like taking threats, including social media posts, more seriously. The Federal Bureau of Investigation ignored obvious signs, including the shooter’s online comments, which stated, “I’m going to be a professional school shooter.”

Guns themselves are not evil and do not murder individuals. They are safe in the possession of a majority of Americans and will never be used to kill children. With that said, a revisit to gun laws is reasonable, including extensive background checks and mental evaluations for those looking to purchase any firearm.

Realistically, there will not be an end to school shootings any time soon. Therefore, public schools needs to heighten security now in order to protect those inside. In some cases, hospitals and banks have security systems that will lock doors; this isolates the shooter and would prevent their travel throughout the premise. Using tactics similar to these institutions would aid in saving students and teachers’ lives.

PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs react to gun violence: Armed with social media, young people across America are actively researching both sides of the gun debate and deciding where they stand.

Don’t turn schools into prisons

by Ashunti, 12th grade, Chicago, Illinois

Some individuals favor solutions that place armed guards in a defense perimeter around schools. Others want to arm teachers. And yet the idea of a “good guy with a gun” makes me more fearful of school shootings in our future.

Teachers aren’t always 100 percent the good guys. There are many accounts of teachers who aren’t trustworthy enough to be around kids. Arming them all would endanger more kids than “protecting.” These solutions seem to want to turn schools from safe environments into prisons.

School shootings can’t be blamed on problems of big city life

by Kelsey, 11th grade, Gretna, Nebraska

The truth about the Parkland shooting is that it opened eyes and it opened doors. The debate has shifted from petty Twitter fights to actual debates on gun control policy. A wave of voices has emerged and teens are demanding reform. Efforts to normalize gun violence by those in power and the news media have been shaken by our awareness that this violent American plague is anything but normal. School shootings cannot be blamed on problems of the big city. Parkland is no bigger than my hometown in the Midwest. I think the country is finally starting to notice that it can happen to any of our schools.

My tears have been quickly replaced with anger

by Shahana, 12th grade, Dallas, Texas

Most teenagers today remember the heartbreak after Sandy Hook but have become increasingly desensitized to such events as they occur more frequently. The individuals who commit such heinous acts are given the power — easy access to weapons — to instill fear into school-aged children. They are dubbed as people who are mentally-ill instead of as terrorists. While they are successful in breaking the spirit of many, they will never take away my voice. My tears are quickly replaced with anger. Anger towards a government that doesn’t enforce gun control, anger towards media outlets for how they focus so much on the shooter, anger towards the world for being so cruel and heartless. But nobody can take away my voice. I will never stop speaking out against the deep injustice of school shootings and a system which has failed its citizens too many times.

We will do everything in our power to ensure that our views are represented in future elections

by Camille, 11th grade, Traverse City, Michigan

In the aftermath of the most recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida, adults tell us not
to live in fear and to go on with our daily lives. Yet, over the last two decades since the mass shooting at Columbine High School, nothing has been done to prevent more school shootings. In fact, access to assault-style weapons has only gotten easier. This unfettered access to weapons has caused us to lose future Olympians, mathematicians, teachers, writers, doctors, astronauts and all those individuals who would one day make up our communities. Our generation will not forget that our elected leaders have let us down over and over again. We will do everything in our power to ensure that our views are represented when we are eligible to vote. When we do, we will create laws to restrict weapon access, ensure care for behavioral health issues and keep our schools safe for our friends, families and for generations.

The government isn’t messing with the Second Amendment

by Noah, 12th grade, Anderson, Indiana

Just because you make it harder to get guns doesn’t mean your Second Amendment is being taken away. The person buying the gun should have to go through mental health screenings to see if they’re stable enough to handle guns. He/she should then be required to go every six months to retake mental health exams. It should be harder to get guns or certain attachments. They should be required to take a class to make sure they know how to handle guns.

People complain that the government is trying to mess with the Second Amendment, which it really isn’t. People just need to grow up and deal with the fact that some folks may not be stable or knowledgeable enough to own a gun. The world is safer that way.

 

We need a new plan

by Briaja, 12th grade, Flint, Michigan

It’s time for our country to step up and figure out a plan B because clearly plan A isn’t working. Plan B would involve improving security at schools and passing stricter gun laws. We can start by preventing anyone under the age of 25 from owning a gun. At 25, people’s minds are more cognitively and physically developed than when they are teenagers. At 25, people are coming out of their adolescence phase and becoming responsible adults.

One of my teachers said the problem wasn’t criminals shooting up the school but kids who are able to access guns. Under Plan B, we get our government to step up and find a way to take of the issue. Because no one should have to hear another government official say, “Our thoughts and prayers are with you,” especially if they aren’t doing anything to help solve the problem.

We have allowed greed to overpower our humanity

by Ashley, 12th grade, Palo Alto, California

I was 12 years old at the time of the Sandy Hook shooting. Hopelessly idealistic and a little naive, I believed that the government, who had to be equally sickened and shocked as I was at the massacre of elementary school children, would immediately scramble to prevent such tragedies from reoccurring.

But nothing changed. And then, another school shooting happened. Then another. Then 200 more. And here we are now, a nation reeling from the deaths of 17 more students and teachers in Florida, wondering what went wrong again.

Our inaction as a nation is — and was — inexcusable. Thoughts and prayers won’t save the hundreds of kids whose blood has been spilled while simply pursuing their education, and they won’t create a safer America for future generations. There is no blanket solution to this incredibly nuanced issue, but we cannot continue to dodge and delay at the expense of children’s lives.

When the National Rifle Association has donated millions to our representatives, it is no wonder that the many attempts to pass gun safety legislation have been repeatedly blocked. We have allowed greed to overpower our humanity; we cannot have the people who represent us value profit over lives.

When politics have become increasingly polarized, it is no wonder that we have not had effective dialogue regarding gun control. Progress cannot be made without communication and compromise; effective gun control and the Second Amendment truly can coexist.

READ: Opinion: I’ve asked hundreds of students if they would feel safer if I was armed. Not one has said yes

 

Remain hopeful, change will come

by Evan, 11th grade, Jenison, Michigan

The worst thing we can do at a time like this is to just accept that horrible things like this aren’t going to stop occurring in schools. I believe that the best solution to this problem is to increase the level of background checks regarding gun sales and make it harder for those suffering from certain mental illnesses to acquire guns. If a person is viewed as a danger to society, then they should not be allowed to own a gun under any circumstances. I also believe that those with violent criminal history should face much higher restrictions when owning and purchasing guns.

We should prioritize innocent children’s lives over giving criminals a second chance when it comes to owning weapons. However, I do not in any way support creating more total gun-free zones. The idea of total gun-free zones sounds like a good solution, but how likely is it for a potential shooter to follow a sign warning of a total gun-free zone? Schools should have at least one police officer. They should be able to do whatever they want about not letting in armed visitors, but they should definitely have some protection within the school to stop a potential shooter.

I hope and pray that tragedies like this will cease to occur and the lives of American children will be protected. I also believe this recent shooting will lead to changes in gun laws.

Guns have changed, shouldn’t our laws change with them?

by Tacey, 11th grade, Traverse City, Michigan

After the Florida school shooting my friends and I were having a conversation at our lunch table. We were saying how if four shooters came in at that moment, blocking all exits, what would we do. Run. Hide. Hug your friends and call parents because you know it’s all over. These should not be the thoughts running through 17-year old girls’ heads. We should be more concerned with a pop quiz in history than a mass murderer popping through the doors.

Yes, we have the Second Amendment, the “right to bear arms.” This was passed in 1789, when loading a gun took a lot longer between rounds than it does now. An AR-15 can fire dozens of rounds a minute. A legally converted AR-15 can fire 700 a minute. Guns have changed, shouldn’t our laws change with them?

We need to ban some guns

by Jemini, 12th grade, Flint, Michigan

In 2017, about four out of every 10 Americans said they owned a gun or live in a home with guns. Now am I saying we should ban all firearms? No, not at all. But I am saying that we should definitely ban some firearms. In most cases, semi-automatic weapons that mimic those used by our military on the battlefield. Why would you ever use such a gun for hunting?

In November, we will vote.

by Morgan, 12th grade, Charlotte, North Carolina

Parkland is different. My generation has grown up living through nonstop violence, and now many of us are of voting age. However, it won’t begin with voting. We will organize school walkouts and speak to our administration. We will work with school boards and lobby local leaders. We will challenge the National Rifle Association and our elected officials. And in November, we will vote.

I’ve always been told to not live my life in fear

by Cassidy, 11th grade, Traverse City, Michigan

I’ve always been told to not live my life in fear. As a high school student, however, I’ve felt a lack of security after the recent school shootings. As a teenager, I’ve witnessed the impact of adolescents becoming depressed and afflicted by negativity and hate. Seeing how lax today’s gun laws are, I can’t ignore the feeling that causes me to wonder what would happen if that were my school?

As it is now, we are vulnerable and defenseless. We can’t face a shooter, and we lack options of how to act in a split second. We can only run and hide. I am demanding that we take action on this issue as a nation. We can’t have more innocent lives lost just because of one person’s failure to think logically.

Do not take our right to bear arms

by Maia, 11th grade, Traverse City, Michigan

I like that we have a right to bear arms. There are many people who want to take away this right, and I don’t agree with that. However, I do care about preventing the wrong people, including those with certain mental health issues, getting ahold of guns. Authorities should look for specific signs. Of course we won’t stop everything, but more can be done.

Why I’m careful how I talk about metal detectors

by Ja’Kavien, high school student, Flint, Michigan

I believe that every school should be well secured with metal detectors no matter how much they cost. But one thing I don’t like when discussing metal detectors in schools are some of the underlying prejudices that are made about students who go to schools in the “hood,” where metal detectors are already in place.

If you go to school in a nice suburban area, there will probably not be any metal detectors in sight. That’s because for a long time school leaders likely thought their students were not capable of doing such a thing, like killing innocent people. But just about every year, there is a school shooting in a town unknown to most Americans. The people who carry out mass shootings are predominantly white and live not far from the schools. It looks like metal detectors need to be everywhere now, not just in the hood.

Congressional inaction on guns speaks volumes

by Anson, 11th grade, Medford, New York

As a high school student myself in the modern world, it is quite honestly absurd that the issue of massacring children is even something that needs to be argued.

Schoolchildren are criticized for their “ignorance” when they criticize the National Rifle Association. But one just needs to look at the NRA’s social media platforms after a mass shooting to see if the criticism is justified – they will be met with silence or arguments that it is not a guns issue, but a mental health issue. The unfortunate hypocrisy is that despite recognizing that mental health is the issue, some members of the government still refuse to provide healthcare to those who can’t afford it. It seems that in today’s America, it is unjust to take away assault weapons and impossible to give treatments to those in need, so the only option is to keep letting children get gunned down.

I don’t want to be surrounded by weapons when I’m trying to learn.

by Brie, 11th grade, Reno, Nevada

I find it terrifying that Nikolas Cruz was able to pass a background check to obtain his guns. Being suspended from his high school for violent behavior should have been enough of a red flag. Guns are designed to kill. Whether they are used to kill animals or people, they are weapons of death. The solution isn’t for teachers to carry guns. I don’t want to be surrounded by weapons when I am trying to learn. I believe that the solution is stricter background checks and outlawing bump stocks and military grade weapons. No one needs an AR-15 rifle to hunt, nor do they need bump stocks. Students are required to spend roughly 5,850 hours every year in school. We demand to feel safe.

We need to learn about the power of guns

by Matthew, Joliet, Illinois

Our culture is aware of the danger of guns, but the news and entertainment media have helped to rob the public of their true dangers. We need a greater sense of conscientiousness among student bodies about the threats firearms pose and how they especially affect those who have serious mental illness. By educating people more about guns, we are more likely to become aware of their power.

The problem with ‘this too shall pass’

Ruby, 11th grade, New Orleans, Louisiana

Whenever anything upsetting has happened during my life, whether Hurricane Katrina or the death of a family member, my grandma has always told me the common saying, “This too shall pass.” I have continued to remember this saying throughout my life after any tragic event. The problem with school shootings is that with time they do pass and over time the media moves on to a new topic.

Instead of hoping and praying for change, we need to take responsibility and advocate for the changes we want to see in our country. We have drills at school for natural disasters such as fires or tornadoes or earthquakes. If we could pass a law to end these natural occurrences, I’m sure it would be passed unequivocally. In a country that has sent a man to the moon, invented cell-phones, legalized gay marriage, and has made so much progress in human rights, we have no excuse to not pass laws or make an amendment to our Constitution that enables citizens to obtain guns in a safer way and ensures that we don’t lose more lives.

RELATED: Opinion: To prevent school shootings, can mental health be taught? 

When a black child commits a crime, they’re called a ‘thug’ — not “mentally ill”

by Taniya, 12th grade, Flint, Michigan

School shootings are not a problem in the African American community. There has rarely been an incident where a black child has shot up a school. And if a black child has shot up a school their deemed a “thug,” “ghetto,” or “hood.” A brown child is called a “terrorist,” but when a white child shoots up a school their deemed “mentally ill,” “has a hard life” or ”defending themselves.”

When a black person commits a crime, the media digs for dirt on them. But when a white person does it, the media makes excuses for them. For example, with the recent school shooting in Florida, one of the first points that was brought to the media right after it happened was “he had a hard life,” or “he’s adopted.” When he appeared in court, his lawyer claimed Nikolas Cruz was a “broken human being.”

Being broken is not an excuse to kill 17 people.

Students should not be afraid of fire alarms

by Madelyn, 11th grade, Indianapolis, Indiana

The day after the shooting in Parkland, my school’s fire alarm went off during fourth block. I remember my friends’ uneasy glances around the room. As we made our way outside, I started receiving several text messages from my friends reading: “This is how the shooting happened yesterday.”

We were all alert as we frantically walked outside not knowing what to expect. Sirens blared around as we continued to hear the fire alarm ringing inside. There was a faulty smoke alarm. We were safe, but it had been bad timing.

The following Monday, three minutes before dismissal, the fire alarm went off again. I remember my blood turning cold as students protested my teacher, telling her that they would not leave. Eventually, we were told that we must go outside and obeyed. Later, another one of my friends told me how she teared up. The chatter around me was fearful and angry.Luckily, yet another smoke detector had malfunctioned, and we were safely released from school afterwards. Were we next?

Make security equipment mandatory

Jy’Quan, 11th grade, Castleton, New York

I think schools districts should have mandatory security equipment in all schools to keep students and staff safe. There should also be more high-tech security for social media monitoring. Staff should be highly trained for events in order to protect students and themselves. The federal government should take responsibility and fund what is needed to keep schools safe. I think if everyone came together and took a stand, we could solve the problem, and schools could become places of learning once again.

I saw my first handgun in the seventh grade

by Grace, 12th grade, Langhorne, Pennsylvania

I remember the first time I saw one of my classmates with a handgun. I was walking home from my middle school in seventh grade. He was sitting in the woods, showing it off to his friends. We live in an affluent county in Pennsylvania. I know few, if any, of these young men who have ever gone hunting.

There is another young man at my high school that sends dozens of his peers videos of him unloading and reloading guns at least twice a week. He is brooding, about twice my size and his excuse is that he wants to join the army. A friend of mine was punished for making a joke about Columbine in our junior year, but I don’t know of anything that has been done about the young man with the guns.

School districts should spend money on safety, not new laptops

by Nicole, 11th grade, Gretna, Nebraska

If schools say our safety is their first priority, then why don’t they spend money making us safe? Why buy students new laptops and computers, saying it’s best for our learning, when we have been running on pencil and paper for as long as education has been a thing. Get us stronger security systems. Get us stronger communities where entire school districts don’t have to shut down because someone made a threat. Get us more school counselors who can help those students who never really fit, who get made fun of by other kids, who eat alone at lunch and whose families struggle. There is so much we can do.

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