Get Your Head out of the Sand

School shootings are a touchy subject. The idea that someone could even walk into a school and start shooting people is just inconceivable to most people. And for so long, active shooter situations have felt far away- like they could never happen to our school. I guarantee you every school that has experienced an active shooter event thought the same thing- until it happened. But today, I am not going to preach about people sticking their heads in the sand. I could talk until I was blue in the face and still not accomplish anything. Instead, today we will talk about school security. Ah, yes. School security. Such a lovely subject. I can’t even count the number of times I have heard students and teachers complain about how difficult it is to get into a school building. But let me give you a new perspective on that.

When my husband and I were in college, we put in a number of volunteer hours at the local elementary school after-school program. The normal process for entry involved a camera and a doorbell and a roundabout path into the school through the office. But, on occasion, when we arrived, seven and eight year olds were running out to board the bus. I don’t know how many times one of the kids would just let us in the door straight past all the security measures put in place. Or how many teachers we strangers walked past that never asked us who we were or what we were doing in the halls of an elementary school. That was the uncomfortable part: the fact that while we may not have had anything other than pure intentions, anyone with malintent could have just as easily gotten in the door.

The measures put in place for school security are there for a reason- to keep the bad guys out and the children safe. Imagine for a minute how you would feel if you or anyone else could just walk up to your child’s school, open the front door, and waltz right in. Sure, it may be convenient, but it isn’t smart. In fact, it is absolute denial.

Now, here’s the kicker. What we currently have as school security is not enough. It spends way too much time looking outside and not nearly enough looking inside. In the majority of school shootings we have examined, the shooter has been a student, who for whatever reason, has decided to take out his rage on his fellow students.

This is also the case with the shooting we will be examining today at Columbia High School in 2004. A 16-year old student texted his friends a warning from the bathroom to get out of the school building. Then he walked out and began shooting until the assistant principal tackled him to the ground. No one was killed, including the shooter, which gives us a rare opportunity to pick his brain. Concerning his thoughts before the event, the shooter said, “What did I want? I wanted release. It’s not a desire for death. It’s a desire for escape — transport and escape. You’ve run out of options, and so you think of changing your life in the craziest way possible — something where you won’t be able to go back. It’s almost a cure for who you are. You know, maybe if this happened, I’d feel calm. I’d feel the way they do. I’d feel peace.” *

This is not the mantra of a stone-cold killer. This is a mental health issue. This is a kid who had no clue how to fix what he perceived to be wrong in his life, so he decided to just up-end it. The action was a desperate cry for help. Now, the question is, how many times are we going to wait until the active shooter event to hear those cries? It is time to realize that mental health is a real thing and that it is absolutely NECESSARY to have mental health resources in our schools. The time of sticking our heads in the sand and pretending that an active shooter event could never happen here is over. It is time to be serious about our security from without, but also to be aware of the issues we have within. It is time to treat the problem instead of the symptoms. It is time for a culture change.

Source for quote:

Swenson, Kyle. "In 2004, He Walked into School with a Shotgun. Today - from Prison - He

Weighs in on Parkland." The Washington Post. March 05, 2018. Accessed June 11, 2019.

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