Another Tragedy

On Tuesday, April 30th, we experienced another tragedy at a school campus – this time at UNCC on the last day of classes. Two students were fatally shot and four others injured. The shooting happened only a few days after a gunman opened fire at a synagogue near San Diego, killing one woman and injuring four other worshippers. By the end of the week, both shootings had disappeared from the headlines. Newspapers and media outlets moved on to other stories. While the articles about school shootings faded into the background, the families of survivors and victims are left to pick up the pieces; many of whom will never recover, either physically or emotionally.

Safety in our schools remains the number one priority for educators, parents, and communities, even as school shootings become commonplace. Stories about active shooters on school campuses have turned into white noise for too many people. But school shootings are a fact and they won’t disappear just because the stories have fallen off the front pages of newspapers or disappeared from the TV news cycle.

In recent months the conversation has also shifted, and a safety narrative that at one time had focused on the importance of lockdowns has now turned into one debating the “effects” of lockdowns on children. This point of view suggests that the time and resources devoted to lockdown drills could be better spent in other ways that lessen the psychological impact on children because the damage caused by lockdown drills exceeds the benefits. The reality is that school shootings are real. On average there have been about five school shootings EVERY MONTH since Sandy Hook. Active shooter drills can be scary for children of all ages. But lockdowns have been proven to be a critical first step in school safety. Every school, college, and university needs a varied lockdown procedure that is simple and easy to follow – one that will keep students and educators safe. Until we can enact broad, sweeping changes, including legislative measures on gun regulations, better mental health screening, and identifying at-risk students, gun violence will continue to be part of the education landscape. And we will continue to advocate – strongly advocate – for lockdowns as part of a comprehensive strategy of being prepared.

Stories about school shootings disappear quickly. We cannot become inured to gun violence in our schools just because the cameras have stopped rolling, the news trucks have left the scene, and the reporters have gone on to the next story. Every incident of violence in our classrooms needs to be a call to action – not forgotten. We need to encourage, push, prod, and demand that our schools take proper precautions to protect our children and teachers.