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The New Normal

The New Normal

It's safe to say that school shootings need to end. Now.

Sunday, January 6th.  A student posts a snapchat video of himself firing an AK-style rifle, cigarette in his mouth, captioned “Training for Prom Walk”.

The video is sent to police and he is arrested.

Monday, January 7th.  School was put on a “precautionary modified lockdown”.  Confused students receive texts from parents during the day, and an official announcement is made 4th period.

Rumors begin circling.  What happened? Is he in jail?  Was it real? It’s a never ending he-said she-said.

Wednesday, January 9th.  Instead of things calming down, rumors spread even more rapidly.  Another potential threat, more investigating, more confusion. Angry parents call the school, wondering if their child is safe.

Friday, January 11th.  Many parents allow their children to skip school.  Some kids do it for the free day, others do it out of fear.  We are put on modified lockdown again. The school day goes by smoothly.

Monday, January 14th.  Talk of a school shooting is slim to none, and the Snowball dance is the new topic of discussion amongst students.  Everything is back to “normal”.

But…it’s not.  This “mass shooting” epidemic that’s spreading across the nation is the new normal.  Is that really…normal? Are we becoming numb to something that not too long ago was infrequent and shocking?  Yes. Now that Knoch High School made it on national news, all of a sudden we start to take notice.

“To be honest with you, I think that people nowadays think about it more than we should,” said senior Simon Stawinski.  “If you asked someone from the 90’s or super early 2000’s, almost no one would say that they ever thought about getting shot up at school or a bomb threat.”

I’ve already drained the topic of what to do if an intruder enters the building–last year, I wrote an article about the ALICE program and how we are adapting to this “new norm”.  No more lockdowns–we’re running, hiding, and fighting. A lot of people feel divided about practicing the ALICE program–should we be protecting children from this, instead of scaring them?  Or should we acclimate students to the disturbing truth? According to a survey done by Pew Research Center, 57% of teens say they are worried about the possibility of a shooting happening at their school.  Sure, we have plans in place if anything like that would ever happen…but doesn’t anyone else think it’s concerning that some students still don’t feel safe?

This article is not politically driven, so please don’t get the wrong idea.  I’m just genuinely amazed at how we have advanced so much in our generation, yet many people across the globe don’t feel safe at concerts, movie theatres, and school.  And it is of course frightening when our own school has a close call.

Senior Lindsey Fanton says she personally feels safe in school, but believes there are multiple options to ensure that everyone else does as well.

“We should get metal detectors.  They’re fairly quiet so they wouldn’t take up time in the morning,” she said.  “They’re also thorough, so it would be hard to sneak something in.”

Junior Adam Bajuszik agrees, and although he feels confident with security, he thinks hiring a few more wouldn’t be a bad idea.

“Maybe hiring a couple more security guards.” he said.  “Also metal detectors would be good if there was another serious threat,” he said.  Luckily, we have hired two more guards since the threat.

At our school, the snapchat threat was deemed a “joke”.  Yeah, real funny joke. Joking about killing people isn’t taken lightly anymore, which brings up another debate.  Where do you draw the line?

“Today, you shouldn’t be making ‘jokes’ about that stuff no matter what,” said Fanton.  “No one knows what’s going through another person’s brain, so you can not be certain that it is just a ‘joke’”.

Although she wasn’t directly affected by the threat, many others are still weary–significantly those going to prom.

“The recent threat actually did hit me personally because this year I am going to be at prom and I feel that just because of this threat, there is going to be more security and it is going to be pretty lame,” said Stawinski.

He shares a lot of the student body’s concerns, but when someone brings weapons and hurting people into the picture, we have to take precautions.

“I believe you have the right to own and shoot guns, but when you film it and mention someone or an event, action should be taken,” said Bajuszik.

One of the reasons the Pittsburgh news stations showed the snapchat threat so much because to some people who don’t live in the area, it’s shocking.  The fact that the student had a gun made good T.V. because a lot of people aren’t familiar with typical more rural western PA culture.

Allegheny County (aka right next door to us) has more than 1.2 million residents.  It also had the largest number of gun sales and transfers in 2014, according to the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives).  Bottom line, firearms are easily accessible and a hobby for most.

“I think it’s very normalized where we live and it’s not unheard of at all, so hearing things about guns doesn’t surprise me,” said senior Melanie McCalip.  “But if I lived somewhere else, I think it would be different.”

Fanton also brings up an entirely different and important factor–mental health.  Let’s start listening.

“I think students should have monthly meetings with school counselors to check up on their mental health,” said Fanton.

There are people in this world that feel powerless.  Misunderstood. Angry. We need to be listening. We need to be paying attention.  We need to take action. We are the generation of kids that will be shaping our nation from now on–we will be the next politicians, teachers, engineers, bosses.  It’s our world to change. So why not change it? Many people disagree about how we can prevent school shootings, but I think that here at Knoch High School, we are making our own small differences.  For those that still worry, think of the positives–we have six state troopers on call all day. We have spent lots of money on technology to keep everyone safe. Plus, the new “Safe2Say” 24/7 tip line can be used to prevent any violence from occurring.  But those who have ideas–speak up! Valentine’s Day marks one year since the mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas. School shootings are on the rise, so it’s time to start preventing them.

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