‘Attention please. Lockdown. Locks, lights, out of sight.” (Tasneem Nashrulla, 2019). This alarm is repeated for a long 20 minutes as high school students, of a STEM school in Colorado, do their best to hide as silent as possible and pray for themselves, and their classmates, to live for another day.
School was created to teach children. School was created to help them grow. School was created to be an environment of safety. However, school is a place where we learn lock down drills, dissolve into the crowd, and learn how to fear the unknown. School safety has changed and so the way it is approached must change along with it. School shootings not only change the culture of students, but leave them with mental health issues that will linger throughout their lives.
In the past 180 years, 517 schools have lost “594 people” and have affected students and communities that fear the same fate will come to their own schools. (Jo Detz, 2019). The increasing number of school shootings have places a cavalier attitude which forces a negative connotation to school. It normalizes the effects of shooting to a place where they are expected to occur. This unprecedented attack on the younger generations leave their communities with “deep emotional scars” that will always remind them of their unguaranteed safety. (Ariella Iancu, 2019)
This culture has not only placed a strain on communities but also on the individuals directly impacted by this violence. Conditions such as depression and anxiety are expected to arise in the aftermath of such a traumatic event. As school shootings continue to grow, students are finding it difficult to properly cope and work through these new feelings and issues. In turn, students are found to lack the ability to maintain focus in these distressed environments. Lower test scores and dropping attendance are one set example of the deepening and lasting effects of school shootings. School shootings are disabling students to the effects of mental health in a way that is preventing them from functioning normally in society.
Likewise, students who have been directly affected by shootings continue to struggle with mental health with every reminder of these events. It can take months or even years to be free from the damage shootings can cause in one’s mind. Thus, when one goes through such trama, they are at a high risk of other issues such as PTSD. Post traumatic Stress Disorder, is a mental issue that is caused by severe stress in the event of trauma. PTSD illustrates the very root issue of how students are being affected by fear. Not only do students feel a “resistance” to school, emotional stress is taken on as they leave the classroom. Which opens the door to feelings such as, “anxiety, absence of security, and anger” at home, where these feelings cloud their minds (Jessica Hamblen, 2007). Even though PTSD is a condition that can be addressed it does not change the fact that this one event can change the outlook of a person’s life and increase difficulty that, before these events, were simple tasks.
School shootings continue to leave a long lasting effect on a student’s health and an imprint on schools safety policies. In the aftermath, precautions were put in schools to try to make a mask of safety to hide the reality of not knowing how to protect one another. In turn, this is not increasing the safety of our schools but rather encouraging fear. In some schools “active shooter drills” are taken beyond the extent of teaching children how to act, instead, they “seem designed to traumatize students” by instilling fear. (Evan Gerstmann, 2019) They send an actor on campus with a fake gun that shoots blanks, pretends to shoot teachers, knocks hysterically on doors, all the while forcing kids to hide in a dark, locked room. For example an unannounced drill in Henrico County, replicated ever mom’s biggest nightmare, thinking their are receiving their last “I love you” text from their children. This continued fear is extending the effects that shootings instill in students. (John hirschauer, 2019). This exposure to violence to young, impreational minds, will increase the fear and panic connected to schools shootings.
School shootings not only affect students as a collective body, but furthermore, causes serious stress and or mental health issues. Schools was a place of promised safety, but with school shooting, safety must be something that is sought at an emotional level and then from there attacked. Mental health is brought with tragedy but as Amy Novontney put it, society must think about, “what happens to the survivors”, and how these communities will rebuild this sense of security that was the foundation of school. Instead of fearing the unknown, schools must focus on using these tragedies as a tool of growth and learning to find solutions to these mental health issues.
- Detz, Jo. “U.S. School Shootings: Just the Facts.” EcoRI News, EcoRI News, 9 Sept. 2019,www.ecori.org/public-safety/2019/9/7/us-school-shootings-just-the-facts.
- Gerstmann, Evan. “Why Schools Should End Active Shooter Drills Immediately.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 7 Sept. 2019, www.forbes.com/sites/evangerstmann/2019/09/07/why-schools-should-end-active-shooter-drills-immediately/#343ee43d2a92.
- Hamblen, Jessica. “PTSD in Children and Adolescents – (National Center for PTSD).” www.georgiadisaster.info, 22 May 2007, www.georgiadisaster.info/Schools/fs%207%20school/PTSD%20in%20Children%20&%20Adolescents.pdf.
- Hirschauer, John. ‘The Needless Trauma of Active-Shooter Drills: Why are we terrorizing children over an exceptionally remote possibility?’ National Review, 11 Nov. 2019, p.20+. Gale OneFile: High School Edition, https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/A603845380/STOM?u=j057905034&sid=STOM&xid=0be02221. Accessed 14 Jan. 2020.
- Iancu, Ariella. “After School Shootings, Children And Communities Struggle To Heal.” After School Shootings, Children And Communities Struggle To Heal | Health Affairs, 19 July 2019, www.healthaffairs.org/do/10.1377/hblog20190717.855810/full/.
- http://www.healthaffairs.org/do/10.1377/hblog20190717.855810/full/AP Language Arts January 2nd, 2020
- Novotney, Amy. “What Happens to the Survivors.” Monitor on Psychology, American Psychological Association, Sept. 2018, www.apa.org/monitor/2018/09/survivors.
- Nashrulla, Tasneem. “This Is What It Sounds Like Hiding In A Dark Classroom During A School Shooting.” BuzzFeed News, BuzzFeed News, 30 May 2019,