Over a month ago America was once again shocked by yet another school shooting. Occuring in Parkland Florida, 17 innocent people lost their lives. Yet you don’t need me to inform you, we live in a new age of social media and round the clock news coverage. After such events have occured American politicians resort to thoughts and prayers, we as Americans come together in mourning, yet time and again get torn apart by the divisive nature of the gun debate. I wanted to explore the perspectives of high schoolers. These students, my peers, have grown up during the height of terrorism and the rise of school shootings.
First a little about my perspective. I grew up in Danbury Connecticut the city next to Newtown. Sandy Hook changed my life, that day is clear cut in my mind. When something, so traumatic happens so close to you it changes how you see the world. It could have easily happened at my middle school, it can happen anywhere. The Parkland shooting came at no surprise. It was and will always just be a matter of time, I thought. When I turned on the news that Valentines day I was taken back to 6 years ago as a 7th grader, sitting in the same chair, watching the same TV, the sun shining in through the window and falling on the hardwood floor in the same way. And yet this was a new shooting, in a different state, and more innocent lives lost. For me Parkland was not completely different from other shootings. Yes, of course it is unique yet the idea of the shooting is the same. Like many of my peers I have become numb to the fear which has previously been associated with mass shootings. The idea of a school shooting now comes to fascinate me. The way in which it affects my peers and how our government addresses each tragedy is compelling. There was something different about Parkland, the national outcry which often comes after a massacre was more profound. I believe it is because it happened at a high school, filled with able minded teenagers, who like me have grown up with this reality. A month on the voices of those survivors are still being heard and a student driven campaign has emerged, spreading across the country.
Like many other high school around the country Tahanto participated in the student run activism which has evoked a movement. Including a walkout. At 10am following in the footsteps of thousands around the country a group of Tahanto students walked out of classes, meeting at the flagpole to have a moment of silence and listen to the testimonies of their fellow students. Tahanto students also held two assemblies to address gun violence and the aftermath of Parkland. First was the high school assembly. Beginning with a video made by Sandy Hook Promise which highlighted the need for better focus on the early signs in a suspected school shooter. Followed by information of what students can do in order to support causes which they are passionate about. This gave way to a student discussion, which immediately led to a dialog about mental health awareness in our own school. Students were adamant on creating a more open and accepting environment. Many students agreed that more focus and awareness about school provided counseling is crucial and would be extraordinarily beneficial to the school as a whole. Middle school students also attended a similar assembly. Unlike the high schoolers the middle schoolers were seeking explanations; why did this happen, what were the reasons, what can be done, and these are my opinions. One of the most moving parts of the middle school discussion was when a boy passionately exclaimed that no death, no matter what the cause was ever funny. You could hear a pin drop, the room became quiet and the expressions on the teachers faces were uncanny.
Overall the two discussions held were remarkably moving and vital. Discussion is the only way to further education, allowing students to become better informed and challenge their own thoughts. It is the only way to come to a solution. Yet the main point of these assemblies was not to find a single solution but open up a discussion. Something which will be followed up during the month to come, held in the form of open forum discussions.
In the end a continuation of the discussion is vital. Making students feel safe in their place of learning is crucial. I wanted to explore multiple questions related to the aftermath of Parkland. Was this different from other shootings, was this changing people's feeling of safety, and what did people want to see changed. Over the next few months we will explore these questions further.