Several schools in Southern California have been victims of mass school shootings in recent years. In 2014 the University of California Santa Barbara a student killed six and injured 14 before taking his own life. Similar incidents occurred at Los Angeles High school in 2012 and Gardena High school in 2011. Apart from government efforts to improve gun laws several public school system’s have taken it upon themselves to adjust safety precautions.
Gardena High school has experienced this frightful event two times, once in 2002 and the other in 2011. Gardena High math teacher, Mrs. Anagu has seen how this affected the school’s security over time. “We have cameras in classrooms and hallways which I pull student’s attention to. I like students to know we are being watched. Drop down drills and lockdowns are also enforced if there are police activities around school.” said Anagu.
The staff and faculty have made it a priority to be extra attentive of students and the classroom environments they provide. “I am now very careful to keep classroom conversations focused on classwork and the curriculum, no side bars. I am also mindful of awkward behaviors of students or anybody in the classroom.” said Anagu.
Another math teacher who was working at the time of both shootings recalls the events and the lasting impact they left. Due to privacy reasons and school regulations regarding the press, he asked to be anonymous. “I’ve been a teacher here for more than 15 years and recently we have been instructed to stand by our classroom doors during passing periods in order to report any suspicious activity” he said. Unfortunately after reaching out the Los Angeles Unified School District’s media relations never responded.
According to csba.org there have been 59 K-12 school shootings in California since the year 1992, resulting in a total of 56 casualties. Out of those 59 shootings 12 are reported to have occurred before or after school on school grounds. Unfortunately it is difficult to prevent these types of occurrences, which is why many schools encourage teachers to invest time in their students. “Could someone had done something or said something to have stopped these incidents in time? The depths of my thoughts concerning the waste of human life can never be put into words” said Anagu.
Warren High School located in Downey has never experienced this national tragedy but has been faced with threats in the past. “Last year we had a student threaten to bring a gun to school and commit an act of violence. The young man posted a message on his social media that caught the school’s attention. Students and parents were advised immediately and the school was equipped with police officers the very next day ready to arrest the student” said Spanish teacher Jay Waldren.
The Press Telegram reported the ninth grade student posted “theres gonna be a shooting” on his Instagram account. The student also claimed this would occur on March 20th of 2015. Students from the school quickly noticed the post and shared it with classmates. Nicole Romero is one of many students from Warren High School who saw this post. “This is something that you think will never happen to you, I heard about this post and told my mom she was so scared she didn’t send me to school that day. I am kind of glad the school administrators here are really nosy and on top of things. I guess since you never know what can happen they just want to make sure we are careful” said junior Nicole Romero.
Bianca Favela is a student who has since then graduated but attended the school at the time this threat was made. “I actually didn’t go to school that day because I was scared something was going to happen. I read in the news that this threat was supposed to be a joke but I don’t know why anyone would joke about this especially when people have actually lost loved ones in school shootings” said Bianca Favela.
According to the Press Telegram’s report the Downey Police released the student that same day pending legal proceedings at a juvenile courthouse in the area. Police found the student’s remarks were intended as a joke. Public relations coordinator for the Downey Unified School District, Ashley Greaney explained how facilities is in charge of facilities. Nothing major was done as a direct response to this specific incident, additional security was imposed due to a general need.
Schools such as Gardena High School and others have taken the measures necessary to provide a safe learning environment. This change in their security has been a result of criminal offenses on campus or recent increase in violent school crimes in society. There are different kinds of security measures used in America’s public schools, two mentioned previously are security cameras and communication between parents, teachers and students.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics the percentage of school’s that used one or more security cameras in the years 2013-14 was 75 percent whereas 2009-10 where it was 61 percent. Also the amount of schools that had an anonymous threat reporting system and electronic notification system in case of emergencies was significantly higher as well. Other safety practices implemented in 2013-14 was control of access to school buildings and requiring staff to wear badges or picture IDs. The restriction of cell phone use during school hours was also one that more schools began to push.
Last October we saw president Obama overcome by grief and shaken up by the Umpqua Community College shooting in Roseburg, Oregon. After this specific incident Obama took time to address the nation. “Each time this happens, I am going to say we are going to have to do something about it. And we are going to have to change our laws.” said President Obama. Unfortunately mass shootings specifically in public schools has been a recurrent crime over the past few years.
According to a report by CNN’s Stephen Collinson, Obama has made over 15 addresses regarding mass shootings during his time in office. This type of crime has made headlines many times but the public has yet to see a direct response. Collinson wrote, “Obama gave no details of a new push to get gun laws and legislation requiring more comprehensive background checks through Congress. And it appears unlikely he will be successful in forging any type of gun legislation before he leaves the White House in January 2017.”
There has been much debate on the amount of security that should be allowed at our public schools in light of this national tragedy. Suggestions that have been mentioned include arming teachers, placed armed guards in every school building, locking down the school with bullet-proof glass and training faculty and staff on what to do during an attack.
The Post Star reports on the need for a balanced approach when dealing with school security especially in a time when school budgets are tight. This report also stresses the idea that most school were not designed with security in mind much less a system that is specific for attacks. Advancing security was not the only response by the public school systems. Many schools now come equipped with a counseling center specifically for when tragedies like this occur. For more information on this issue theiacp.org offers a guide for preventing and responding to school violence.