Rise in school shootings: 28 have occurred in US so far this year

Editor’s Note: The following article was researched and composed by student writers of the Lake Charles Charter Academy Observer.

By LCCA Observer staff

Each day it seems innocent children are injured and killed in school shootings across the United States. A recent example is a shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, that killed 19 children and two adults — and marked the 27th school shooting this year.

Twenty-eight school shootings have occurred in the U.S. so far in 2022. There have been 120 school shootings since 2018 when Education Week began tracking such incidents. The highest number of shootings, 34, occurred last year. There were 10 shootings in 2020, and 24 each in 2019 and 2018.

“More school shootings with casualties occurred during the 2020-21 school year than in any other year since data collection began,” according to a new federal report on school crime and safety. Since the Columbine massacre in 1999 in which two teenagers killed a dozen students and one teacher, at least 185 children have been the victims of gun violence in school.

Why do most school shootings occur?

Some school shootings occur because some students have been victims of abuse at home. Some kids want to get back at people who hurt them. Also, many kids struggle with stress or mental health issues.

What to look for

We found a list of nine signs that students and teachers can use to help alert them to potential violent outbreaks. According to the website, Sandyhook Promise, these could help save lives:

• Suddenly withdrawing from friends, family and activities (including online or via social media).

Bullying, especially if targeted towards differences in race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation.

Excessive irritability, lack of patience, or becoming angry quickly.

  Experiencing chronic loneliness or social isolation.

Expressing persistent thoughts of harming themselves or someone else.

Making direct threats toward a place, another person, or themselves.

Bragging about access to guns or weapons.

Recruiting accomplices or audiences for an attack.

Directly expressing a threat as a plan.

What is happening in our community?

Sam Houston High School was in the local news for potential threats of a school shooting on Aug. 26. The student was only 14 years old and made threats to others in text messages. A student who was concerned called the Calcasieu Sheriff’s Office and reported the incident.

According to a news release from the sheriff, “authorities located the student at their residence and arrested them after inquiring about the accusations.”

In the second incident in only a week, the sheriff’s office reported that a 17-year-old student from Sulphur High School was arrested on the charges of terrorizing. According to the news release on Aug. 29, the student made a plan and was threatening other students on social media saying he was going to kill specific people from school.

What do our elected officials think?

Each time guns are found on a school campus in our local parish, hundreds of residents flood social media pages to voice their concerns. Most often, they beg for local officials to do something about this before it is too late, and more children are lost to gun violence.

We reached out to our mayor, Nic Hunter, and asked, “What do you think needs to happen in order to keep our students safe? What would you recommend to the school board as a plan of action?”

He responded:

“Our students and faculty deserve learning spaces that are safe and secure. Parents should never have to spend their days worrying about whether or not their child is safe at school. This is something so basic and something we all deserve as a community.

“While there is not one single answer to how to keep schools safe, communication between our elected officials, school officials, and law enforcement is key. I meet regularly with the chief of police in order to stay up to date on a number of community matters, including the training and plans they have in place with other local law enforcement agencies regarding school safety.

“I also meet regularly with our local leaders in education about school safety. I encourage them to foster an environment where students feel comfortable reporting things that are concerning to them and to maintain constant lines of communication with law enforcement. Law enforcement should be a part of campus programming for safety assessments and to build positive relationships with students and faculty. These relationships are priceless and help keep our community safe. I am very confident in saying that our local education administrations understand this need for coordination between the city and law enforcement.”

We also reached out to the chief of police, Shawn Caldwell, and asked, “What is our city doing to help protect the students of Lake Charles?”

He responded:

“Student safety in the city of Lake Charles is a top priority for the Lake Charles Police Department. The Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office places deputies in area middle and high schools as school resource officers, but as chief of police, I communicate with Sherriff Mancuso to make sure our officers and deputies are working together to do everything we can to support safe learning environments.

“One of the most effective ways we as LCPD can keep students safe is through regular campus visits during non-emergency situations. For a number of years, we have operated a Read with Me program for our younger students and a Lunch Buddy program for students of all ages. These programs put our officers on campus and provide them with the chance to build positive relationships with students and faculty. These types of programs are great experiences for both the students and our officers.

“I want students to know that we take your safety and your school’s safety seriously. We make every stride we can to prevent anything from happening on campuses locally, but I want to reassure you also that our officers, along with other local law enforcement agencies, undergo regular and rigorous training to provide quick and effective responses should we receive a call for help.

“Students, you can help us keep you safe by trusting your instincts. If you see something concerning, say something to a trusted adult. Adults, if a student brings a public safety concern to your attention, please do not hesitate to call us. We are here to serve our community and you can help us with a simple phone call.

How does this impact Lake Charles Charter Academy?

While we haven’t had any issues here at Lake Charles Charter Academy, we know we are not immune. Given today’s trajectory, we must stay vigilant, and keep an eye on our students. We asked our counselor, Tammey Cook, what she can do to help build relationships, and counsel students in need.

She said:

“The relationships developed with students, parents, and other faculty members have a huge effect on how I impact crisis situations. I am responsible for following protocol and processes during active shooter and other crisis situations which includes accounting for students during a crisis, connecting students with parents after such crisis, and helping to ensure long-term physical and emotional support.”

We reached out to Coach Franklin Shaw, the head behavior interventionist what he thinks it will take to continue to keep our school safe. He explained:

“I can’t say that I’m not concerned, because guns have become a major problem in our community. There are various reasons a person decides to bring a firearm on a school campus, but it is not right. Life is precious and placing harmless students in jeopardy by having a gun on campus is wrong and extremely dangerous. First, I would want to educate students on different ways of dealing with situations that would cause them to feel as though they need to bring any type of weapon to school. Second, reaching out to someone they trust on campus and talking to them about what they are dealing with and how they are feeling before reacting.

What is the government going to do?

Some researchers are working to understand which policies work best to reduce firearm risk. The government is now making a law that might be able to prevent school shootings where a person must be 21 for a gun purchase.

Only 13 states have laws mandating safe storage. Some apply to handguns only, and some are vague on the standards for locks. Massachusetts and Oregon require all firearms to be stored with a lock in place.

Only 10 states limit gun possession to persons 21 and older, and just 17 states set this standard for handgun purchases.

If you see something, say something

If you hear someone saying they are bringing any type of weapon to school or showing others they have it, you need to get away from that person quickly and quietly. Once you get away from that situation, get in contact with an adult you can trust immediately. If not find a teacher, parent, coach, or another adult to call 911.  Give them as many details as you can such as what you saw, and what type of weapon that person showed you.

It is not snitching to report this type of dangerous situation to authorities. We have to do whatever it takes to keep each other safe at school This also applies to people who make threats online but haven’t brought a gun to school. If they say they have a plan, assume they do and get help.

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