Opinion | Feeling safe at school: A right, not priviledge, that every school kid should have
Published: Friday, November 1, 2013
Updated: Friday, November 1, 2013 01:11
Just a week after the deadly Nevada shooting, students have returned to their desks and locker-lined hallways at Sparks Middle School in Sparks, Nevada, a town about five miles northeast of Reno.
Jose Reyes, 12, was identified last Thursday as the shooter. Reyes was a middleschooler who enjoyed zombie video games, soccer and MTV’s “Ridiculousness.” He didn’t seem to be a loner, a close friend tells the Huffington Post. In fact, “He seemed happy. He seemed intelligent. He won video games more often than not,” said Reyes’ friend, 11-year-old Diego Munoz.
The young boy shot himself in the head after opening fire on the middle school basketball court outside. He also took the life of ex-Marine and popular math teacher, Michael Landsberry, 45. Two others were shot and injured.
Mason, one of the two boys injured last week said he locked eyes with Reyes, begging him not to shoot. Mason and his mother sat down with a CNN reporter to voice his newly found opinion on guns. Mason said, “When I got shot, I learned that [guns are] not just a toy, they’re a weapon and they can damage somebody very bad.” He adds, “I’m lucky to be alive.”
For the 600 plus students at Sparks Middle School, it is surely a memory never to be forgotten. In fact, I still remember how scared I was as a fifth-grader on lockdown during the 2002 Beltway sniper attacks when I lived in the D.C. suburbs. Though large-scale attacks like the Nevada shooting, Sandy Hook or Columbine gain the most recognition, grade-school violence is much more prevalent of an issue than we think.
According to a 2011 fact sheet published by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 5.9 percent of children surveyed reported they did not go to school in the past 30 days because they felt unsafe at school or on their trip to school. Who can blame them? More than 7 percent of 9th to 12th-graders reported being threatened or injured with a weapon on school property at least once in the last year. An additional 6 percent admitted to bringing a weapon to school for protection, according to DoSomething.org.
Imagine your twelve-year-old self. Now, imagine being shot in the gut or the arm (like the two injured boys in Sparks, Nevada) by a kid you had English with. How would you interact with others, feel safe in school or go on living normally from that point on? “Traumatizing” is a start, but there are deeper psychological issues that one can only imagine going through as a pre-teen.
The real question on everyone’s mind: what prompts these kids to shoot?
The CDC said risk factors for school and youth violence include prior history of violence, drug, alcohol or tobacco use, association with delinquent peers, poor family functioning, poor grades in school and poverty in their community.
But a contradicting report published by NBC News—featuring facts from the U.S. Safe School Initiative—says no such profile exists. NBC says, “Attackers were of all races and family situations, with academic achievement ranging from failing to excellent.”
Like a lot of people, I find myself in the middle of these two opinions.
If we step back and look at the bigger picture, we can see a common pattern in simple human behavior, regardless of the kid’s past—violent or not.
Rejection. It commonly takes place at work or school—though there are home environments that may be equally as destructive—the pressure to be accepted by classmates is real. Looking back at my middle school days, I remember begging my mom to let me use a flat iron. Some girls at school were teasing me for my frizzy hair and it started to get to me. Though this is a routine example of every-day grade-school incidences, it hurts when our peers reject the way we look, walk, act or talk.
So on a larger scale, bullying can range anywhere from being teased for a bad haircut to actually being physically hurt.
I am no psychologist, nor was I ever a victim of serious bullying as a kid, but I have witnessed it. We have all been witness to the violent aftermath of bullying: it’s Sandy Hook, it’s Virginia Tech, it’s Sparks Middle School in Nevada. And because of this, we all have formed our own opinion on violence in schools.
It takes a terribly troubled twenty-something to walk into an elementary school and kill 20 children and six adults. And I can’t imagine what would prompt a kid to walk into his middle school and open fire on an ex-Marine who survived two tours to Afghanistan but died protecting his students.
Whether we have government studies to prove or disprove that commonalities exist in pre-teen perpetrators, every child, and teacher, deserves to feel safe at school. End of story.