Secure Our Future; Protect Our Children

Gracyn Taylor, Journalist

In recent years there have been a number of school shootings around the country that have hurt the lives of students and their families.

It has been brought to the attention of schools across the country that there needs to be something done in order to protect students when they attend school everyday. However, there is controversy over how exactly schools should handle these situations. There are two directions in which schools can decide to go: make schools a “harder target” or make schools a “softer environment”.

A “harder target” meaning making schools difficult to attack (i.e. armed guards, security, armed teachers, etc.). Some parents and students believe that making sure that schools are more protected would prevent these shootings from happening.

One parent who would like to stay anonymous stated, “Schools need to take their security more seriously. Much like we adjusted after 9-11, I believe we should do the same with schools. Harden the target and they [shooters] will move on- it is a deterrent, much like a front yard sign that announces the presence of a home alarm- the bad guys move on if they know people would be able to fight back¨.

On the other hand, there are multiple people who feel that schools should take a softer approach to keeping their students safe. A softer approach would consist of teachers and students ensuring they are on the same page and share quality relationships. Teaching emotional stability and improving social and emotional health within students at school will help to calm the violence.

“NPR wrote an article titled ‘How to Prevent the Next School Shooting’. It talks about softening schools instead of hardening them and teaches about emotional skills. The article explains that it is important to teach these skills to students, especially troubled ones so they are able to learn how to express themselves, and how schools need to get better at recognizing students in need”, Vice Principal Victor Ramirez stated.

The article that Ramirez mentioned, ‘How to Prevent the Next School Shooting’ by NPR.org, explains an eight point plan including how schools need to change the environment in which their students are in so that everyone feels comfortable and how there needs to be better prevention of weapons getting into the hands of someone who may be troubled. Including:

  1. School Climate: Improve the quality of relationships between students and teachers.
  2. Witnesses: (Goes along with Climate) If students have a teacher they are closer to they are more likely to tell them if they have seen something suspicious or how they are feeling.
  3. “Emergency Mode”: Once there have been threats of a shooting, there are threat assessments. NPR explains that there is no specific profile for a school shooter, but that most shooters had told someone of their intentions prior to attacking.

Many teachers feel that schools need to improve both social and emotional education for students and secure school campuses.

“First and foremost, the recent school shootings have made me feel sadness but also anger as a parent and a teacher. What has happened recently in Florida and in other schools across the country could have been prevented,” English teacher Laura Ochoa explained, “I think that  we need to improve mental health services in our country. When the Parkland shooting occurred, staff and students alike were not surprised when they heard who the shooter was. I understand that guns get into the hands of people illegally, but a gun should not be sold to someone without an extensive background and psychological check. He clearly had mental health issues that were not addressed and he was able to purchase a gun while mentally unstable”.

Ochoa went on to explain what she would like to see in terms of guns in society and for school safety.

“I would like to see common sense gun laws passed. I think that our campuses need to be up-to-date as far as securing our campus. I don’t think it should be so easy to just walk on to our campus,” Ochoa explained.

The recent school shootings have left students, teachers, and parents alike wondering if their schools are prepared if an attack were to occur on their campus and if they have taken the right precautions to prevent them.

Vice Principal Victor Ramirez is confident that Ripon High School has taken the correct precautions in order to prevent any kind of danger from occurring on the Ripon campus.

“I think about them, I worry about them [the shootings], but I take comfort in knowing that Ripon has a really good system and the campus is safe. We have a really good safety team that monitors everything on campus and is quick to respond to any threat. There is also a student resource office that works with threat assessments,” Ramirez stated.

Many teachers like Ochoa would like to encourage students to talk about the shootings, in a respectful manner, and stay educated on the matter.

“My advice is to: 1. Be kind to one another. If you see or anything that makes you feel uneasy, report it. You guys [students] see and hear way more than we [teachers] do and many times we don’t see all sides of our students. 2. Be safe. 3. Don’t make light of what happens or the way people react in these tragedies. I have seen firsthand, students crack jokes about the tragedy in general… I just don’t understand it. I love my students who can engage in responsible discourse about these serious topics with one another,” Ochoa stated.

Ochoa goes on to explain that it is important to know the facts before speaking out.

“I would tell students that if they feel strongly about something that is happening in our world, speak up about it, but do so respectfully and do so with facts. It is dangerous to speak out about things that matter with biased and unsupported points,” she stated.

The question of what course schools should take in order to protect students is always present. Whether they act and make schools a “hard target” or if they respond and create a “soft environment” for students it will always cause controversy within society.

Although no school can be completely sure that an attack will never occur on their campus, schools will attempt to find the best safety and prevention measures possible. Ripon Schools are among those schools that feel that they are safe when they are at school because of the actions taken.

“When I send my own children off to school, I don’t fear for their safety. I know we aren’t immune to tragedy, but I feel that their teaching staff at their school has also gone through the same training I have and I feel like we are prepared,” Ochoa explained.

Schools know the actions they need to take in order protect their children. Students, parents, and teachers alike all feel that they are safe knowing that schools are taking protective and preventive measures on their campuses.

“I don’t think we should live in fear, but we do need to be vigilant and aware of the world around us and report suspicious people and behaviors,” Ochoa stated.