We’re Divided and We’re Falling

Sadly, we live in a deeply divided society. Our deep divides however do not yield individuals choices on the policy measures they want or don’t want. Deep divides lead to inaction and one of the most apparent places where inaction has had its way is school safety. Because of the deep divides in how politicians believe students ought to be protected from mass school shootings, anti-gun legislation is nowhere on the books.

As a result, local districts, with the help of their communities, are taking matters in their own hands—in addition to conservative politicians passing legislation meant to protect (as opposed to prevent people during a mass school shooting), but are actually dangerous, but I digress. One example is happening in southern New Jersey.

To protect children from mass school shootings, the Gloucester City School District is equipping schools with bullet resistant shields; courtesy of Leo Holt, president of Holt Logistics Corp. in Gloucester City, who donated 250 (for a district of over 2,200 students and over 200 educators) of the 22-pound shields to the district at a cost of $75,000.

According to comments made by various parties at the press conference announcing the initiative, many consider this is a viable solution.

Gloucester City Superintendent Sean Gorman said, “We’d be fools to ignore the real possibility that has come to America’s schools.” Holt said that “we believe this is a viable and worthwhile layer of protection for schools to have.” Gloucester City Police Chief Brian Morrell commented that, “It’s all about keeping our kids and teachers safe… It’s sad that it’s come to this.”

If nothing else is true, it is sad that it has come to this.

There is precedent for this action; something similar took place in Maryland with an entrepreneur donating shields to students and educators.

It seems like an appropriate gesture to donate something that can potentially save educators and students when a mass school shooting occurs. However, it’s not an effective way to address gun violence and it provides politicians cover for failing to protecting educators and students by way of gun regulation via legislation.

For one thing, these bullet resistant shields aren’t effective. According to Ken Trump, a national school safety and security expert, the shields were well intentioned but not practical. Trump continued saying that schools would be better served by focusing on more training and implementing policies such as regular lockdown training and addressing antiquated public address systems, which could hamper an emergency response.

Logistically and statistically speaking, these shields aren’t a guarantee that everyone considered a target during a school shooting will be protected, sadly. This move certainly won’t prevent a school shooting. What it will take to secure the safety for students, educators and staff alike is legislation that makes it difficult for would-be shooters to get a gun—namely legislation that holds parents accountable for their guns used during a school shooting.

Here’s why…

While firearm purchases have been increasing for decades, they have accelerated during the pandemic. In the three months from March through May 2021, an estimated 2.1 million firearms were purchased – a 64.3% increase in the expected volume. According to a 2021 University of Michigan survey, due to the increase in firearms during the pandemic, more teenagers were being exposed to firearms around the home, and also that the number of firearms in households with teenage children increased.

While many firearm owners look after their guns responsibly by maintaining them locked, unloaded and inaccessible to teens, access to unsecured firearms remains the single biggest contributor to teen firearm injury and death. According to the survey, in the midst of the increased firearm purchasing during COVID, more firearms were being kept unsecured within homes with teenagers.

In around 74% of incidents, the firearm used was obtained from the student’s home or from that of a friend or relative.

Legislation in this one particular area is just one avenue to support making schools safer for students. What is also true is that there is no further need for policies that harm Black children and other children of color.

Although Congress passed legislation that meant to make schools safer, but it only does what’s been done previously; increasing police presence in schools and other school-hardening mechanisms that have been shown to expose young people to violence and increase their likelihood of going through the school-to-prison pipeline—disproportionately harming Black and Latino/a/x students.

A popular narrative surrounding gun violence holds that Black and Latino/a/x students are primary actors. Simply look at your local news; reports of gun violence are often shown in neighborhoods where Black and Latino/a/x/ communities live. However, according to Mother Jones, 71% of all school shooters are white males and of that group 70% are under the age of 21.

So rather than address the elephant in the room, that young white males are often the one’s shooting schools and working to stop that by preventative educational measures, we have private businesses donating shields. None of it actually protects children and these donations further enables a divided Congress to maintain the status quo with their posture and their policies—further enabling white supremacy.

United behind reality and the need to protect our students, we can stand. However, divided by agendas and lies, we will all fall. Sadly, it seems that the “adults” only remember the latter.


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