Voice of the Notre Dame Prep Saints

The Seraphim

Youth at gunpoint

Fear of gun violence goes beyond campus gates

Bradley Friedman, Staff Writer

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An average of one shooting per week occurs on a school campus, according to the Department of Education.

Yet while school shootings make national headlines, fewer than 2 percent of student homicides take place at school, on the way to or from school or at a school-sponsored event, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

The CDC estimates that the odds of a student age 5 to 18 being a victim of a school-associated homicide is about 1 in 2.5 million, and children are almost 100 times more likely to be murdered outside of school than on campus.

Millions of dollars spent to safeguard schools from deadly shooters in the almost four years since 20 children and six adults were shot and killed at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut,  have left many children unprotected from the threat in homes and in social arenas, too.

According to a recent report from the Bureau of Justice and Statistics, most nonfatal gun violence occurs at the victim’s home–42 percent–or in an open area, on the street or on public transportation–23 percent. Less than 1 percent takes place on school campuses.

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(Image/Department of Education)

In other words, despite the significant hours children log at school and despite a rise in active shooter situations in and outside schools, children are more likely to be shot at a friend or relative’s house or in a parking lot or garage or shopping mall than at their school.

Notre Dame Prep has never witnessed the tragedies other communities have been exposed to, and the school continues to take steps to keep its students, faculty and staff safe from the possibility of gun violence on campus.

Dean of Students, Mr. Carl Hess, said NDP has security guards constantly present on campus as well as security technology including surveillance-video cameras. Hess also noted how tight security has been on campus since it opened its doors.

Statistics show, though, that gun violence against youth is more of a threat beyond the campus gates.

Ms. Amy Beckis, an NDP English instructor and a parent said, “Gun violence is a concern because kids have access to guns, and there appears to be no fear in using them.”

According to Ms. Beckis, recently, two teens were shot in their car around Sunnyslope High School, which is located in a middle class Phoenix neighborhood. Many of the students Ms. Beckis taught in elementary school went on to attend Sunnyslope High School.

Although the shooting happened outside of school grounds and after school hours, it did involve high school students.

Ms. Beckis said, “The concern many parents have is that kids these days are not learning how to handle conflict in their daily lives. Perhaps there is a loss of value placed on human life or no understanding of real life consequences, as so many kids’ parents seem to bail them out of situations, leaving kids to misunderstand cause and effect in relationships.”

She added, “Behaviors such as violence and empathy are learned, for the most part. So, as an educator, I must wonder what students are really learning in school. Perhaps schools need to focus on the real life application of daily lessons as they pertain to restoring the dignity of human life.”

Beckis along with other students on the NDP campus consequently said they believe that NDP like any other school is vulnerable to a violent incident.

Senior Shannon Macneil expressed her concerns over the fact that she might not know how to respond if there were a real threat on campus.

Although NDP practices lockdown procedures and has a response plan in place, Macneil said, “The shootings at both NAU and Independence High School point to a real problem. The reality is closer to home than I once thought, and NDP should be teaching students how to respond in safe but more effective ways.”

NDP’s lockdown procedure calls for all students to take cover in the nearest classroom or building when a lockdown is called. Doors are locked and windows covered to prevent anyone from seeing into the classroom. Teachers take attendance so administrators can account for the whereabouts of all students. If the crisis were real, an administrator would call the Scottsdale Police Department.

According to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, “School crime tends to reflect national crime trends, and the public may perceive schools as less safe than they are due to the intense media coverage of school shootings.”

Most experts, however, say that not enough has changed in the U.S. regarding school shootings since the 1999 Columbine shooting.

According to Everytown for Gun Safety Support, schools have become the “best” targets for gunmen and gun violence in the past 16 years, coming in first before churches in the United States. Around the nation, there is an average of about 10 lockdowns due to potential threat each day.

These statistics point to problems with easily accessible automatic weapons, weak lockdown procedures and the inability to assess and alert proper officials about mental health issues in adolescents.

Hess said, “NDP continues to increase the presence of teacher supervision on campus and implements lockdowns, fire drills and crisis management procedures to ensure safety and cooperation between all persons.”

Senior Landon Goldberg recalled a lockdown at Chaparral High School during his first year before transferring to NDP saying, “My teacher went and locked the door, turned the lights off and covered the window. We were expected to wait in silence.”

Hiding in closets, under desks, and in corners has become a part of American school life.

Goldberg also noted, “My parents had been told not to contact me, and I was told not to contact them. In the end, we were released and it turned out okay, but I spent the entire day not knowing what could have happened to me.”

According to Healthy Children, every school has its own standards for parental involvement in school safety threats. Information is shared based on what schools consider to be a need-to-know basis. First responders want to ensure student safety first, while parents want information first to allay their fears.

According to Arizona police records, since 1996, there have been five reported school shootings.

On Feb. 12, 2016, a murder-suicide left May Kieu and Dorothy Dutiel dead at Independence High School in Glendale, Arizona. A suicide-note and a handgun were found nearby.

On Oct. 9, 2015, one student died and three others were wounded in a shooting at Northern Arizona University.

On Jan. 31, 2015, two rival gangs clashed at Cesar Chavez High School in Phoenix where 15 shots were fired, but no one was injured.

In October 2002, Robert Flores was a failing nursing student at the University of Arizona. He shot and killed three of his professors before committing suicide.

In November 1996, Bob Smith took seven people hostage at Rose-Mar College of Beauty and ordered them to lie in a circle. He then shot each of them in the head.

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Community members gather for a candlelight vigil after the Umpqua Community College shootings. (Photo/Wikimedia Commons)

According to NPR, most parents and educators believe children are safe at school, but both those with evil intent or the mentally ill can buy guns in the United States. To some, the nation’s “gun-free campus regulations” tip the scale in favor of a gun-toting assailant, creating defenseless victims rather than safe zones on campus.

Arizona law prohibits the possession of a firearm on the campuses of any public or private kindergarten, common school or high school, except for use in a program approved by the school.

However, an adult may carry an unloaded firearm inside of a car on school grounds, provided that if the adult leaves the car, the firearm is not visible from the outside, and the car is locked.

Lawmakers in Arizona, the No. 1 state for gun ownership according to Guns & Ammo Magazine, have introduced more than 100 firearms-related bills since 2011.

According to The Washington Post, each measure to expand background checks in Arizona has failed along with almost every other gun-control related bill.

The only bill to pass approved the increase of mental health records that Arizona submits to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

According to an independent investigation done on school violence by ABC News, here are the facts:

Around 73 percent of school shooters have no prior criminal record and close to 96 percent of school shooters are male.

Approximately 68 percent of school shooters got their guns from relatives or at home, and 65 school shooters have referenced Columbine as a motivation.

Since the Columbine shootings, 17 kids aged 15 or younger have committed or attempted a mass school shooting. About 81 percent of school shootings occur where someone had information that the attacker was thinking about or planning the shooting.

Statistics show most young people access firearms from their own homes

In order to to ensure student safety, the right questions must be asked of districts across the nation.

  1. Are teachers and staff trained annually to handle emergencies?
  2. What are the real threats on each campus?
  3. How do the reactions change depending on the situation?
  4. What are the lockdown procedures for each individual circumstance?

Because active shooter situations are often over within 10 to 15 minutes, before law enforcement arrives on the scene in some cases, school personnel must be prepared both mentally and physically to deal with an active shooter situation.

Senior Lindsay Bucklin expressed her concern about not knowing what she would do in such a situation. Bucklin said, “If I was the first person to encounter an active shooter, I do not feel prepared to handle the situation. Although it might not be an immediate concern at NDP, it is still a very realistic threat students should be prepared for.”

A system known as ALICE, developed by Greg Crane, a law enforcement officer, and Lisa Crane, an elementary school principal, has trained more than one million people in preparation for crisis situations.

ALICE is an acronym that stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate.  The last two–“Evacuate” or “Counter”–are steps Bucklin said she would like to learn more about .

She said, “I think that running would be my first instinct because I would be terrified. I know I would not want to be locked in a classroom waiting.”

According to the Arizona Republic, after the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary, many Valley schools re-examined their safety plans due to concerns that the charter and private schools were not as prepared to defend against threats as their public-school counterparts.

According to Arizona law enforcement, most of the more than 535 charter and private schools in Arizona have not established the same relationship with local police departments, nor have many private schools allowed officers onto their campuses to assess the possible threats and help craft a proper response plan.

Although such precautions are encouraged, they are not required for schools that receive no government funding.

According to both the Phoenix and Scottsdale police departments, there are school resource officers and crime prevention units available to private schools. However, according to the departments, the majority of private and charter schools have not asked for help.

NDP has its own plan, contracting with Bolt Security, a company that guards many Valley private schools, to have a security guard on campus. Bolt notes that the schools they protect are just as secure as Valley public schools.

Despite increased efforts and attention to the issue nationally, the frequency of school shootings has remained practically the same for over a decade, with 500 school-associated violent deaths since 1996, according to National School Safety Center director Ronald Stephens.

Senior Domenick Sarlitto said, “The issue of gun violence on school campuses and in public places is a hot topic in today’s society that cannot be ignored.

“With all of the recent incidents around the country, I cannot help but be concerned about the possibility that I, too, could be in a dangerous situation,” Sarlitto said. “It is crucial that people are aware of their surroundings, keep guns out of the hands of those that are unstable and prepare to respond appropriately in a crisis.”

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Youth at gunpoint