Article by Ethan Price & Kaylee Robertson 

    What comes to mind when you think of the U.S? Maybe you think of freedom and McDonalds — perhaps football and cowboys. Many Americans tend to be reminded of an unhealthy amount of fried food. Unfortunately, those aren’t the only defining characteristics of America… 

    We forgot to mention school shootings. 

    Gun violence within American schools has been a growing epidemic and a genuine concern for the wellbeing of our children and teachers. In fact, this year alone, there have been 30+ reported school shootings. This plague of violence has managed to exclusively affect the U.S. with a whopping 288 school shootings since 2009. By comparison, Canada has experienced 2 shootings while Mexico has gone through 8 in the same amount of time. 

Oxford High School, Michigan 

    Just recently, the deadliest K-12 shooting in the US since May 2018 occurred at Oxford High School in Michigan. On November 30th, 2021, 15-year-old Ethan Crumbley opened fire on the students of Oxford High, killing 4 and injuring 11. Hana St. Juliana (14), Tate Myre (16), Madisyn Baldwin (17), and Justin Shilling (17) all tragically lost their lives in the attack. Some reports even say that Tate Myre was shot after attempting to heroically disarm the shooter, though nothing is confirmed. Crumbley was charged as an adult with 4 counts of 1st degree murder and 1 count of terrorism causing death. Interestingly, his parents were charged with involuntary manslaughter because they purchased the handgun for him. The Weekly Talon sends its sympathy and support to the Oxford community for the devastating losses of this horrific shooting.

Students paying their respects at a memorial for the Oxford High School shooting. Source: PBS

    As time has passed, new information has surfaced that reveals the school’s negligence in preventing the tragedy. On the day before the shooting, teachers discovered Crumbley searching online for handgun ammo during class. Crumbley claimed that it was for a shooting range, but the administration contacted Crumbley’s parents anyway, though they didn’t respond. Evidence later revealed that Crumbley’s mother sent him a text about the incident, stating, “LOL. I’m not mad at you. You have to learn not to get caught.” 

On the day of the shooting, teachers discovered a note drawn by Crumbley that depicted a person being shot, a gun, and a laughing emoji. Above the grotesque drawings were the words “Blood everywhere” and “The thoughts won’t stop. Help me.” Teachers met with him and his parents and required that the parents provide him counseling in 48 hours or have Child Protective Services called on them, while also encouraging that the parents take him home. The parents refused to take him home and failed to mention that he may have had a gun in his bag, which was never searched (and did, in fact, have a gun at the time). Claiming that Crumbley’s clean disciplinary record warranted no further punishment and that he displayed no warning signs of being a threat to himself or others, counselors sent him back to class. Hours later, Crumbley exited the bathroom firing over 30 rounds into students, walls, and lockers alike.

Crumbley’s alleged Instagram profile on the day before the shooting. Source: The Sun

Naturally, the school has received lots of criticism for allowing Crumbley to return to class without checking his bag. Further investigation uncovered videos, social media posts, and journal entries from Crumbley that made clear his urges to kill students, suggesting the shooting was premeditated. Two Oxford High students, Riley Franz and Bella Franz, are filing a $100 million lawsuit against the school. Both sisters survived the shooting, with Riley sustaining a non-fatal shot to the neck and Bella escaping unscated (physically, at least). The Franz family filed the lawsuit under the claim that the school could have prevented the shooting, which isn’t hard to believe looking at the school’s actions.

Gun Violence in North Carolina

    It’s difficult to feel safe in American schools with the constant threat of gun violence looming within them. While such issues haven’t quite seeped their way into Davie County, the surrounding counties have slowly begun to deal with them. There was a shooting at Mt. Tabor High School in Forsyth County, a gun found at Forbush Middle in Yadkin County, and another found at Parkland in Forsyth once more. Frighteningly, those events occurred in 2021 alone

Why does gun violence happen?

    There are quite a few factors that contribute to gun violence; the most evident being mental health. After studying the actions of previous school shooters, it’s clear that many, if not all, were fighting battles in their minds long before they ever considered fighting others. Evidence shows that 90% of school shooters have had suicidal tendencies in the past, while 60% had been battling with some kind of mental illness. There are almost always signs beforehand, whether that’s a drawing, a social media post, or someone clearly struggling with a mental illness.  

    The mental strain that creates such violent tendencies typically stems from situations in a student’s personal life. Odds are they experienced trauma and abuse in their home lives. Perhaps they even experienced bullying and isolation within their schools. Isolation is even more of a probable cause following the Covid-19 pandemic, diminishing the coping skills of many. Most of those students have also been in learning environments where problem solving skills and mental health weren’t a big enough focus. While that doesn’t excuse such a horrific action, it helps to understand why it happened so it can be prevented later on. 

    Arguably one of the most important factors of gun violence is the easy access to guns in general. Many states are becoming remarkably lenient with gun laws. In fact, this allowed for 24 million guns to be sold in 2020. While owning a gun is a legal right, perhaps it’s time to crack down on the mental state and wellbeing of who is buying such weaponry. It should also become a bigger priority for all adults to hide and lock away their weapons, especially considering the majority of guns used in school shootings are “borrowed” from a relative. Regardless of what we do, gun violence is a serious problem and has led to guns being the leading cause of death for American children and teens. 

What has been done to combat gun violence?

    Schools across the U.S. are aware of the abundant violence and have developed their own solutions and workarounds. For instance, some schools have either implemented a clear bookbag policy or banned bookbags altogether. Others have installed metal detectors and upgraded security and surveillance systems. 

    While this is certainly a step in the right direction, there are a multitude of issues attached to those solutions. The removal of bookbags is totally impractical for students transitioning between classes- especially for schools without lockers like DCHS. Metal detectors can and have been smuggled past. Security and surveillance upgrades are incredibly expensive, requiring funds that most schools just don’t have. Nonetheless, it’s clear at this point that focusing on responding to a school shooter shouldn’t be the primary objective. Instead, the goal should be prioritizing the wellbeing of our students and having more effective plans to prevent school shooters altogether. 

What can and should be done to combat gun violence? 

    If anything is clear, it’s that students can’t solely depend on the system that schools have in place for school shootings. Other things students can do is advocate for more mental health opportunities and available counseling. Tackling mental health issues is one major factor in prioritizing the safety of everyone. 

    Adults can take initiative by making sure guns in homes are inaccessible to children. Furthermore, it is important to teach gun safety to anyone who accesses such weaponry. Adults can also vote for gun safety laws, especially those that focus on keeping guns away from the mentally unstable 

    Schools should always establish a reliable system in which students and staff can safely report threats. It should also be encouraged to report threats as quickly as possible. Additionally, it is up to schools to educate children on problem solving and safety at all times. Doing so would prevent countless  issues in the future. 

While it’s true that the future is  unknown, it is our hope that Davie County Schools may never go through such a heartbreaking experience. The safety and mental wellbeing of our youth must become a bigger priority in the years to come or these tragedies will continue to occur. Stay safe and always remember to check in on those around you. You never know what someone else is going through.