You hear daily horror stories about the tragedies behind mass shootings. The most well known shootings take place in school, and while the numbers went down while school was virtual, they’ve been rising ever since. According to the Sandy Hook Promise, “EACH DAY 8 children die from gun violence in America. Another 32 are shot and injured, and guns are the leading cause of death among American children and teens. 1 out of 10 gun deaths are age 19 or younger.” We can only imagine what percentage of these are sourced in schools. A study of school shootings (1974 to 2000), was conducted by the Secret Service and Department of Education. They concluded that 93% of school shooters planned the attack in advance, emphasizing that planning could take place at any moment. It was also found that 77% of active shooters spent a week or longer planning their attack. 2018 was the year with the most documented cases of mass shootings, including school based. The number ranks up to 322 total documented mass shootings, three of those including schools. That year finished off with a whopping 387 people killed, and 1,274 injured. This includes the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida. When we hear about these stats in everyday life, it’s hard not to ask “what if?” This unfortunately is a reality for many American students. It’s hard not to imagine yourself in a situation that is way too familiar for anyone’s liking, and a situation that can happen at any moment. But, what would really happen if we found ourselves in this situation? Would your school be prepared? Would your teachers and classmates be prepared? Would you be prepared?
Starting with Holyoke High’s safety concerns. For one, we’re entering week five of the new school year, and despite having had one fire drill during week one, we have yet to have any sort of lockdown drill. I have been in a couple classes during week one, where the teachers have gone over lockdown protocols, but nothing more than that. If you’ve been in the school system for a while, you know that lockdown protocols have been constantly changing. Whether it was called a code white, or a code black, we had a code. We also had exact instructions on what to do in that scenario. It was always to hide against the wall that doesn’t face the door, lock the door, turn off lights, pull down the shades, stay silent. Protocols are different all over America, but they are basically following the same outline. In contrast, this year teachers have told us that they are required to keep their doors open at all times, and while they’re able to close them in case of an emergency, you typically don’t find out there is a need for a lockdown, until confrontation has already occurred. Keeping doors open all day gives an active shooter direct and fast access to what they are there for. Going along with the irresponsible rules that administrators have set, a big safety problem is the fact that the PA system in the English wing just doesn’t work. It doesn’t seem like it’s in plan to fix it either. Not only do students and staff in that wing miss announcements during the day, but they will also miss all emergency announcements, including a lockdown announcement.
We are seeing similar concerns in other schools throughout the district. In Metcalf Middle school’s new building, they don’t have a speaker system at all. Despite the fact that it is an old building, we believe that installing one should be a top priority and should have been done a long time ago. A long time before students and teachers moved in, it was official that the new building would be used. Teachers even taught remotely in that building during the 2020-2021 school year, and a PA system could have easily been installed during that time. Being in a school with no way to communicate with everyone at the same time is a major safety concern, even if it is only one hallway, like in our case.
We hope that administrators in both schools, as well as the rest of the system, will listen to our concerns for the first time. The safety of the student body, as well as these quick fixes, should be prioritized.