School board makes changes following devastating school shootings

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Photos by Abagail Bissett

In 2022, there have been at least 140 incidents of gunfire on school campuses.

A map showcases the number of mass shootings since 2009. The bigger the circle, the larger the death toll; the largest being Las Vegas. (Photos by Everytown)

As the school year begins, the teachers are putting up their posters, and students are anxiously waiting for the new year to start. Many parents are worried about sending their kids to school and then coming home safely. Since January 2022, there have been 29 school shootings. For every shooting that makes the news, there are a great many more that do not. Even though it is statistically unlikely for a school shooting to occur, it is still something that many students in the US worry about.

 

“I don’t think it will happen but it’s always in the back of my mind,” said Brandon Nguyen, senior.

Even though there has never been a school shooting or threat at Athens, some students are fearful of the possibility. Even with the very unlikely chance of a school shooting, gun violence is the number one cause of death for children in the U.S. This fear is reinforced with every active shooter drill, every news story, and every heartbreaking instagram post. 

 

“It has definitely made us focus on our safety procedures, our training, being sure we take time to ensure that everybody understands what we need to do,” said Stephen Mares, Principal.

 

A study, conducted by the U.S. Secret Service shows that the majority of school shooters had a motive, usually involving a grievance with a classmate. These attackers usually had a history of mental illness or other. The study concluded that these shootings could have been prevented with proper attention and care. In today’s age, 13 percent of teenagers experience some sort of mental health issue. The consequence of not addressing these issues could be fatal in very rare cases. The Parkland Shooter, for example, had a history of mental health and behavioural issues dating back to age six. Looking into his history had shown that the signs were there, and yet no one did anything. 

 

“I think fighting fire with fire is a horrible idea, we need to keep us safe and make sure teachers [and staff] have the right training,” said Nguyen, “we need to take the right steps to make sure that [shootings] don’t happen.”

On Average, 10 people are shot in every mass shooting. Over 1000 people have been shot and killed in the US since 2009. (Photos by Abagail Bissett)

The question on how to keep students safe has been ground for some debate in past years. In Wake County, the school board is changing the way they build and design schools; Fewer entrances, higher security and even changing the location of the main office within the school itself. In older schools, such as Athens, there have been doorbells installed at every entrance to keep note of who enters the school. Other options have been suggested, such as the arming of teachers, an option which has stirred up controversy in the past, and better mental health resources to help prevent such tragedies at the source. 

 

“From a board [perspective], they’ve been trying to look at facilities… and also addressing some policies and how we handle situations,” said Mares, “I worry about the cause of them; I worry about mental health support for kids; I worry about social media and threats and different things that happen.”