From a Teen’s Perspective: SOS (Save Our Schools)
Last Friday, every student at my high school listened to a webinar delivered by our administration. The presentation discussed lockdown procedures in the event of an active threat on campus — translation: what to do if there’s a school shooter.
The first 10 minutes of the webinar discussed physical responses. Run away if you can, find a classroom or bathroom if you can’t. Lock the doors and barricade them with desks from the inside, never mind that the doors open outwards. Close the blinds and find a spot that seems “safe.” Don’t use your phone — a ringer notification can be the difference between life and death. And don’t communicate with your parents. They would only make it worse if they tried to pick you up.
I’ve heard these things since elementary school. The idea of a school shooter didn’t scare me then. I couldn’t comprehend death and pain, and I never thought they would happen to me. I used to fantasize about kicking a shooter in the butt. Now I think about what I would write in a goodbye note to my family.
The worst part of lockdown lessons is how necessary they are. In 2023 alone, there have been 30 school shootings resulting in injury and/or death. Since 2018, there have been 174. Sixteen people were killed this year. We are so desensitized to tragedy that 16 people feels small compared to other disasters. Imagine 16 people you know dying tomorrow. Don’t keep reading until you can appreciate the impact of those deaths.
Sometimes I walk into school and wonder if I’ll die. I don’t expect to die. But I wonder if I will. Younger readers know this feeling. Older readers probably don’t. Think about the first time you were confronted with the idea of death. Was it in kindergarten?
But I already knew all of this. The first part of my school’s webinar just forced me to remember all the gut-wrenching realties we’ve come to accept for years. It was the second part that made me want to scream or cry or both.
Our administeation spent the last half of the lesson telling us how we could stay calm if there was a shooter. They told us to use breathing exercises, read a book, or pretend to scroll on our phones. Picture you or your child reading a book while they’re praying against death. I’m not going to pull out Shakespeare while I picture the dead bodies of people I know.
Now here’s the realization that flipped my stomach: We have gotten to the point where the only thing left for our schools to do about gun violence is tell students how to reduce their stress before they might get shot to death. And yet this country would still rather hold onto its guns.
My friends and I have become sitting ducks. We are told to lock the door, take deep breaths, and hope for the best. “Don’t take the guns away — help kids relax before those guns rip them apart.” This logic is killing children across the nation. Anybody could be next.
I am one voice with little power. My point has been made countless times by countless people in countless articles, courtrooms, and protests. Countless mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers and friends and family and teachers and neighbors have felt the loss of countless lives, cried countless tears for countless bullet-riddled bodies.
But I am still going to make my point because what else can I do? My conscience requires action.
Students cannot and will not be safe until we have dramatically stricter Federal gun laws. We need rigorous background checks, stringent regulations on firearm sales, and extensive research into gun violence prevention.
For this to happen, we must all decide to stand as one united front for change. The choice is up to you.
To contact me, email email@example.com.
Dylan Lanier is a senior at Menlo-Atherton High School; his column appears weekly.
Image by pressfoto on Freepik