photo illustration by Sonya Sud

During intruder drills, the expectations are that students stop what they are doing, lock the doors and hide in a place out of view of the door.

Staff Editorial: We don’t feel safe

October 31, 2022

On Oct. 24, less than 45 minutes away from LHS, there was a school shooting at Central Visual and Performing Arts High School which resulted in two deaths and an additional seven injured. CNN Today said the weapon used was, unsurprisingly, an AR-15-style gun. The shooter was also alarmingly armed with over 600 rounds of ammunition and more than a dozen high-capacity magazines.

The magnet school had seven security guards and metal detectors, according to STLToday. Fortunately, locked doors and a quick law enforcement response prevented an even bigger tragedy.

Not only do we have the moral obligation to comment on the recent tragedy as student journalists, but we also feel the need to address our thoughts as young adults in the St. Louis community.

If this happened 45 minutes away from us at a school with a strong security plan in place, it is clear it can happen anywhere. Realistically, there is no assurance a school can be 100% safe from these acts. But, there are still things that can be done as students, as a district and in the government to help prevent them as best as possible. 

The Image staff wrote what they believe is a crucial part of our roles in ending these senseless tragedies.

To students

In many recent shootings, there have been obvious warning signs on social media. 

 The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter in 2018 showed signs of killing animals and flaunting his BB gun on Instagram. Also, a person close to him claimed he said he had a “desire to kill people” and was possibly going to conduct a school shooting. Yet, no one called attention to this. The friend did not tell the police and the police did not investigate his violent actions with the weapons provided to him. The avoidance of these signs led to 17 deaths. 

Make sure you are actively paying attention to warning signs. Some previous signs have been someone posting pictures of guns, discussing how badly they want bullies to die and pictures of consistently killing animals for fun instead of actual hunting. When someone jokes around saying they will shoot up the school, that is no joke and should be taken very seriously.

This is a rough topic to discuss with others, but I hope the recent event has brought awareness to you about the changes that need to be made in reactions. – Annie Leath, 11

When practicing intruder drills, some students may think there is absolutely no way this would happen at our school, and therefore, they don’t take the drills seriously. Often students talk through the important intercom messages and continuously go on their phones throughout the span of the drill. Sometimes, even teachers don’t take the drills as seriously as they should. 

In the recent shooting, I’m sure the students felt that a shooting wouldn’t happen at their school, just like we do. Unfortunately, it did. We need to continue to learn from these horrific events and need to take this matter seriously. Pay attention to the practice intruder drills. In the end, it could save your life. – Nola Jancich, 11

We have every right to be scared. When we hear about school shootings, we often feel upset and disturbed, but this one is different. This shooting hits closer to home and showed how these violent acts can happen to any school, in any place. The mass shootings epidemic in America has grown to the point where we see it happening to students in our own city.

You hear it all the time. ‘Be Kind.’ A phrase that has lost its meaning to students because we see it everywhere. But, being kind could mean life or death.  Being kind to everyone is taking a reason away from troubled students to act on violent impulses, such as a school shooting. Several of these shooters have even referenced bullying or feeling alone as their justification for the shootings, like Alvaro Castillo, who injured two in an attempted attack at Orange Hill High School in North Carolina in 2006. “All I wanted was respect…. No one respected me,” Castillo said in a video.

While there are many reasons to be kind, it’s obvious it could even help prevent tragedies in the future. You never want to add to someone’s struggles when you don’t know what battles they are fighting. Being rude or arrogant at school to others will never lead to any positive outcome, but the size of that outcome could be beyond belief as some school shooters have been motivated by mistreatment by peers.

Being kind isn’t just a phrase, it’s a way of life for the safety and wellbeing of students and the community. – Penelope Proffitt, 11

While the burden of stopping these shootings can’t be on us, we still have to do something to make ourselves safer in the face of this violence. We have to pay attention to the drills given to us by our schools. We simply don’t have the choice to goof off during these drills. People often talk, play on their phones or just play around through these drills. Messing around risks us becoming a statistic in this gun violence epidemic. We can’t save the two lives taken earlier this week, but we can help save our own lives. – Eshwar Murali, 11

To Rockwood

I’m terrified of what would happen if someone came with a gun to Lafayette. I have no clue where I’m supposed to go, all I know is that there’s a chance one of my friends, classmates, teachers, or I, would die. I don’t want that. I really don’t want to lose the people I care about. But that’s what I think every time I see another shooting in the news. People would die because we’re unprepared.

I’ve never been part of an active shooter drill. I don’t know anything compared to what I know about how to avoid fire. For fire, I know you feel the door for warmth, you head to the parking lot and line up with your class and you crawl when the smoke gets thick. But for a shooter? I have no clue. Instead of having more drills where no one takes them seriously because all we do is sit at our desks, I’d rather have a drill that would teach me things that would actually help save lives. I hear about things like putting a chair under a door handle, why can’t we learn about that? I want to have a drill where we learn how to escape the building, how to throw things at intruders and things that will actually save lives. – Samantha Haney, 11

I know Rockwood is trying, but we need to try harder to improve our security plans and prepare students and staff. We’re living in a world where kids are so used to constantly hearing about school shootings that we barely give a second thought when one happens. But, after I had a conversation with a few friends, I learned every single one of them has had nightmares about a school shooting happening to them. 

What worries me is the fact that at Lafayette, I have never even experienced an active shooter drill. None of me or my classmates know where the off-campus meeting sight is supposed to be. In fact, it’s already the end of October and we have yet to have one active intruder drill. Even with those, the most I’ve learned is how to hide.

Why hasn’t the training included the best options to escape and run? Why am I not learning how to fight back if necessary? Why is it that the only thing we’re being taught is how to sit in dark classrooms, lock the doors and hope for the best? What if a shooter isn’t close by in the building? Why have we never had an intruder drill during lunch or the passing period? Sure, everyone knows how to hide, but no one knows what to do in other instances that have happened in shootings nationally.

KFF reports firearms are the number one cause of death for children in the United States. Given the freedom in buying firearms in our country in addition to the prevalence of firearm violence, the least that can be done is to educate us so that we would know what to do if ever put in the situation of an active shooter during school. If we can spend eight hours a day in school learning, we can spare a few minutes learning what to do in a case that might actually save our lives. – Sonya Sud, 11

Rockwood, please do better about making us feel safe. We don’t need an email saying a shooting happened at a neighboring school.  We need an actual game plan. I know teachers have had an active shooter drill on a recent Professional Development Day, and they know what to do, but we don’t. Just like all the other drills we have, we need to prioritize an active shooting drill for the whole school. Practices and preparation should be a priority. 

In past intruder drills, we were taught to hide in a corner and throw stuff if an intruder comes near us. But what if the intruder has a gun? Do we still throw stuff at them? I need to know where to escape to or what we should really do if an active shooting happens.  I don’t want to ever have to text my parents to say, “A shooter is in our school and I don’t know what to do.” – Molly Brim, 12

Part of just trying to minimize and hopefully eliminate the casualties or even the existence of school shootings is not only just regulating guns, but also providing better mental health help. If someone is upset enough that they think they’re just going to eliminate someone, that is a problem. They’re dealing with emotions they themselves are not able to handle. That’s where a therapist comes in.

If we can intervene in the root cause before any bad stuff happens, that would be the ideal thing to do. Regulating guns is also good, but it’s not the only thing we have to do. Money won’t be able to fix things. Money won’t be able to just take away guns. – Daniel Carrillo, 9

To the government

It’s important to acknowledge first and foremost the changes that have been made in recent months. It would be ignorant to say nothing has happened, as President Biden signed a federal, bipartisan bill in June that was one of the largest gun reforms in decades. By keeping a closer eye on younger gun buyers and restricting domestic abusers as some of its points, we are seeing a step in the direction of gun control to allow those who would like to “bear arms” to do so freely without effectively handing weapons to mentally unstable people. However, while this is an admirable step, it’s not enough.

One of the best parts of this bill is that it encourages the use of the Red Flag Law, a law that allows the police to remove weapons from someone if they are seen as not mentally or physically capable by peers. The issue is this law was only incentivized and not enforced, allowing states to choose whether or not they implement the law. In fact, Orlando Harris’s mother called the police to have his rifle removed, but because the Red Flag Law was not enacted in Missouri, they could not seize the gun and instead had to give it to another adult not in his home. Harris managed to get it back and proceeded to kill two people with it. Notably, this should not be a ‘suggested’ change, and neither should other reforms. 

As much as gun reform has been a political argument, the real debate is whether or not the lives of those children are worth the changes that we have to undergo. Because, frankly, several politicians and citizens in the United States are so centered on their ideals of freedom that they simply refuse to put the safety of children above it.   – Juli Mejia, 12

There is absolutely no reason for any citizen to have access to semi-automatic weapons. They are military weapons designed for killing mass amounts of people. These types of firearms can be bought legally by citizens over the age of 18, the same people who cannot yet purchase alcohol or cigarettes. They are not hunting guns, they are not the only option for home protection or self-defense; they are made to kill. 

When the Second Amendment, the right to keep and bear arms, was written in 1791, the guns that Americans had access to were primarily flintlock pistols and muskets.  Those arms were important parts of everyday life, as they were used to hunt, protect the home (there were no police stations to get help from) and, if necessary, defend against another corrupt and oppressive leader. The Founding Fathers had no idea that there would be weapons of this type in the future or that they would not just be used for military purposes. 

While the right to bear arms is an important right to have, allowing such dangerous weapons to be purchased and owned so easily has impacted the rights of others in society — specifically the right to life. – Mateo LaMar, 12

Something needs to change. School and mass shootings are becoming more and more prevalent, but nothing serious is being done to change that. There is no reason for people to carry semi-automatic rifles like ARs. I can understand the urge to maintain our Second Amendment rights, and the use of guns for self-defense. However, in an instance of self-defense, when will anyone ever need more than a simple handgun? Some think they need their guns for hunting, but if you need a gun capable of firing hundreds of shots in less than a minute to hunt, you’re doing something seriously wrong and need to get a new hobby. It’s perfectly reasonable to be allowed to have a simple handgun or pistol that is locked away.

I’m not saying there should be a ban on all guns but at the very least, obtaining one needs to be more regulated. We’ve seen time and time again the consequences of such objects getting into the wrong hands. In Missouri, no permit is necessary to carry a concealed handgun if a person is at least 19 years of age, according to the NRA-ILA. So a 19-year-old can be trusted with a weapon capable of murder, but they can’t legally drink alcohol.

Still, some will argue that banning dangerous weapons won’t stop the problem. Maybe it won’t stop the problem completely, but if changing the law ends up preventing one school shooting, and saving one child’s life, isn’t that worth it? From 1966-2019, 77% of mass shooters bought their guns legally, according to New York Times. So obviously there are going to be the 23% who obtain guns illegally, but 77% is such a substantial percentage that it should say something about the legality of guns.

Given all this, the process to obtain a weapon should be much more complicated than it is right now, and any semi-automatic rifles should be completely banned.  – Sonya Sud, 11

Finally, to the country

Right now is the time to make a change. We need to see a difference in the country, and we need to stop letting every shooting pass by without real action taking place to stop them. The fact is that mass shootings are on the rise and they can happen anywhere. Any school, no matter neighborhood, background or demographic, could experience this kind of violent attack.

We fear that the entire next generation is becoming desensitized to these shootings and are starting to see them as something that ‘just happens.’ It should not be normalized, and it should not be ignored.

We must act as a nation to make changes in laws, public safety, mental health treatment and mentality. If we want to prevent more senseless tragedy, we have to start by taking action as students, as a district and as a community. And we have to start now.

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