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School shootings can effect more students than you may think

Man in Black Shirt and Gray Denim Pants Sitting on a bench holding his head down
Man in Black Shirt and Gray Denim Pants Sitting on a bench holding his head down

Over the summer, WSIU reported on how the faculty at schools react to the shootings that happen at other schools across the country. Seeing how administrations implement precautions and learn from these tragedies is important, but not the whole story.

According to Education Week, there have been 168 school shootings where at least one person was killed or injured since 2018, which has left an impact on the students not only at those schools but students across the country.

Jamie Clark, the student health services director at SIU, says the way students react to these events can vary.

“I think you see people who are certainly impacted by it because they have seen it touch their lives and then there are some that have become a bit desensitized to it because they have heard about so many different school shootings now but if it has never come close to them, they don’t feel some of the impact some of those other students have, having it come close to them and touch them” Clark said.

A couple of years ago, Josh Stafford, the superintendent at Vienna High School, said some of the students at VHS had a scare which led them to believe there might be an active shooter at their school.

“I recall one day, I was traveling in Chicago for meetings and I get a call that it was perceived that a gunshot had gone off in the building. Come to find out it was just an overinflated tire on a cart that was parked in a closet setting by itself and so the air had expanded for whatever reason and the tire popped” Stafford said.

Different parts of the building had different experiences with the “tire pop incident” depending on how close they were to it. Mathew Johnson, a former student of VHS and current Southern Illinois University Carbondale student, says he heard the loud bang of the tire and a teacher immediately rushed him and a couple other students into a small room.

“We didn’t know what was going on. Our first thought was that there was a gun going off” Johnson said. “So, we were sitting back there not knowing what was happening. I heard from other people that teachers ran up to them and told them to go to the media center and everyone ducked down and everyone was freaking out and I think we were sitting back there for 30 minutes, 40 minutes maybe and then we got it called off and they said it was a tire popping.”

Some students didn’t even know part of the building feared there might be a real active shooter situation. Maia Hayden, a former VHS student and current Murray State University student, says she never heard the tire pop and her class assumed the lockdown was just a drill.

“When Ms. Bradley got a call, I don’t know who it was from, maybe it was a message from someone saying that they thought it was an active shooter, she was like ‘everyone be quiet, everyone be quiet.’ We were trying not to break into tears of laughter because we were like ‘there’s no way, there’s no way’” Hayden said.

Johnson says how everyone reacted to the situation in the immediate moments after the pop did not give him much confidence in the school’s ability to handle a real situation.

“I felt like everyone wasn’t prepared if that was what it was. It didn’t seem like there was any order or anything and even what they instructed us, it didn’t seem like it would’ve kept us safe. I think I would’ve been safe but those people that just had to lay down in the media center, the place where almost everyone goes, it just didn’t seem like we were prepared” Johnson said.

Johnson is not the only student who believed the response from students and faculty wasn’t the best. Aubrey Anderson, a former VHS student and current Southeast Missouri State University student, said fear was already high before the tire pop incident but this situation only heightened that fear.

“I feel like there was already a big fear then since mass shootings were happening a lot more frequently. I feel that gave the idea of what would have actually happened if it was actually a shooting and not just a tire popping, like how would we have reacted because I don’t feel like we reacted in a way that was good if it was actually real” Anderson said.

She says she and her classmates were left alone by the teacher not knowing what was going on.

“We were kind of left alone the whole entire time, we saw him shutting off lights in other rooms, we saw videos of people being told to get underneath desks and to get down. The whole entire time we didn’t know what was happening” Anderson said.

Anderson says this fear has lingered into her college years. Recent events such as the shooting at Michigan State University back in February, has also caused more worry for her and some of her peers.

“They had it up in Michigan college and I remember watching it live with my friends because they had friends up there. So, I think there is more of a risk of it happening at colleges” Anderson said.

Jaime Clark, with SIU, says close calls such as the tire pop incident or hearing about other school shootings could lead students to question their own mortality.

“One thing about school shootings that is a little bit different is that oftentimes there are younger victims. So, I think it can really cause students to question their own mortality, to really have that front and center” Clark said.

SIU hosted a drill in August that included an active shooter simulation to inform students about what to do if there is a real threat to campus. However, Johnson says not enough people were involved for it to have much of an effect.

“I heard about the drill but they need to have almost everyone do it if they are doing that. Only a select people did it and I wasn’t even there during that time so, I feel like only a small portion of people actually worked with that drill” Johnson said.

Anderson, who is a residents assistant at SEMO, also shares some concerns about the preparedness of her campus.

“Me and my other resident assistants, we have some worries because we don’t have any protocol in place if there was a shooting that happened on campus and what we would do with our residents in the building” Anderson said.

On top of having more protocols, Anderson believes the college can work on how they relay information to help ease some students' worries.

“I feel like we don’t have a good place to post the information,” Anderson said. “So, not enough students check their emails but there’s just not a place, most of the time you see it through posters and stuff like events happening for information but we don’t have a place or we don’t have enough of them to be putting up.”

Hayden says schools, like hers at Murray State, are doing about as much as they can and the responsibility should fall more on the lawmakers.

“Probably laws because schools can only do so much, they can only protect you the best that they can. I’m lucky not to have such a huge campus so word gets spread fast. A big campus like UK or something, there would be like half that campus that has no idea” Hayden said.

These are some of the thoughts from students about what should change but there are precautions being taken to help with the prevalent crisis of school shootings. To learn more about the steps being taken in Illinois, click here.

Ethan Holder is a student contributor for WSIU Public Broadcasting located at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. Contact WSIU Radio at 618-453-6101 or email wsiunews@wsiu.org
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