News Opinion

Skehan ’15: Nearing Sandy Hook anniversary, school violence and mass shootings are once again in the news

It is becoming difficult to get through a month, or even a week, without seeing some sort of tragedy break on the front pages. Even as I write this on Friday evening, I’m seeing reports about a shooting in the Los Angeles Airport, leaving one TSA officer dead and at least two others wounded. In the past few weeks, we have witnessed another barrage of these stories, but recently, they are beginning to traumatize our schools.

On Thursday Oct. 21, a 12-year-old middle-school student in Nevada shot and killed a teacher, and wounded two other students before committing suicide. The very next day, on Oct. 22, a 14-year-old student in Danvers, Massachusetts (only an hour north of Wheaton) stabbed and killed his 24-year-old teacher. The teacher, Colleen Ritzer, had offered to stay after school to help the suspect, Phillip Chism, after seeing him struggle in math class earlier that same day.

The shooting at Columbine High School in 1999 is possibly the most infamous incident of such a nature, and I’m sure we all remember the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary that occurred almost a year ago. Although any mass shooting is a devastating event, that one in particular has stuck with me. Elementary school is a place to learn, make friends, discover your creativity and spark your passion for whatever life has in store for you. To take away such innocent lives filled with potential is just beyond comprehension.

This feeling extends to any attack on school grounds. Schools of all levels, whether they are a day care or university, should be viewed as safe and secure places of learning. After all, education is supposed to provide us with opportunities: The pathway to a career, the formation of lifelong bonds between friends and learning valuable lessons from professors and teachers. This is why I have such trouble understanding violence in schools.

Of course, not everyone will enjoy the school environment, which is understandable. With all the benefits I mentioned previously, there come the negative aspects to schooling: bullying and peer pressure come to mind, among others. It saddens me that school is not always a welcoming and friendly place for children, but students should always have a feeling of safety as soon as they step inside their school, period.

The “Federal School-Associated Violent Deaths Study” found an annual average of 23 school homicides in the U.S, and according to the same study, school violence as a whole has actually decreased over the past thirty years. While all violent crimes are horrifying, there is a certain added trauma when the violent acts take place on school grounds.

Of course, this discussion typically leads to debates on gun control and the effectiveness of counseling in schools. But with all the discussion and outrage, these incidents keep occurring. It seems almost inevitable that some time down the line, maybe in a week, maybe in a month, we will be seeing more young lives cut short. This should not be something that we get used to; this should not become the norm.