In the past several weeks there have been multiple occurrences involving students carrying weapons to school, and in some cases harming others, which has prompted me to wonder if school violence is increasing?
According to MSNBC, a 12-year-old boy carrying a Ruger 9mm shot and killed teacher Michael Landsberry, 45, and wounded two other students Oct. 21 in Nevada.
Two days later at a Massachusetts high school, Philip Chism, 14, was charged with the murder of his math teacher Colleen Ritzer, 24, allegedly killing him with a box-cutter.
On the same day in Vancouver, Wash., an 11-year-old boy brought 400 rounds of ammunition, kitchen knives, and a handgun to school because the student he was targeting called the boy’s friend “gay,” as reported by CNN.
Is it just an unfortunate coincidence that all of these recent events took place within days of each other?
I doubt it.
Despite growing up knowing about the historic shooting at Columbine High School in 1999, it is hard to believe that a school, especially in a place like Carmel, could be anything but safe. Then, last year 26 students and teachers were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School for no apparent reason in a town very much like our own, and school violence became a prevalent issue yet again.
While it may not seem like it, according to certain polls conducted by the Justice Department, there has been a decrease in school violence over the past few years. But why is it that every time I turn on the news, it seems another active shooter incident has occurred? It could be that the media is covering it more intensely, but could that also be one of the sources for the violence?
Listening to students talk around school and hearing casual conversation about suicide, rape and murder only shows that our senses have been dulled through movies, video games and the news when dealing with these problems. Video games are made to be addictive, and the more teens play or watch them, the less they react when something crude or violent occurs. Not to mention, the rush of adrenaline associated with the games make killing and harming others seem fun.
While many think that an active shooter incident is an inconceivable scenario in Carmel, the motives for violence plague our community as well: wealth and poverty, difficult home lives, substance abuse and mental illness.
These issues have already affected our school, and if students are so easily influenced that they can be convinced to start “cutting” and harming themselves, then is it really a stretch for students to be motivated to hurt others? When a 12-year-old can bring a gun to school, what is to say anyone else cannot?
In light of recent events, perhaps the answer is to limit the use of media, and thus exposure to violence. However, in this day and age, I know that is not going to happen.
Maybe the answer is to tackle the issue by using individual character assessments. In elementary school, each student is evaluated on a regular basis for academic purposes, but in middle and high school, students are left alone.
Despite efforts of schools like Carmel High to create a feeling of community, I think the only way to prevent these events is to pay more attention to each individual and, if they need it, offer help.