Are schools still a safe place for our children?
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When talking about safety, there are a few things that society undoubtedly considers especially vulnerable. The top 1 is children’s safety. We live in an era when the fertility rate is on a decline as well as the mortality rate for newborns. Especially in the developed world, there are fewer children born every year however with a high potential to achieve average life expectancy. The value of a child’s life is higher than ever and therefore highly protected.
On the other hand, the number of school shootings is increasing every year. The place where children spend more time than at home and which should be the most protected is becoming more and more endangered by gun shootings. And what might sound like a US phenomenon, is spreading even to the “safe and well-protected” Europe.
Let´s sum up the incidents that occurred during 2023 in the most developed continent on Earth:
- On December 21st, the last days before Christmas, the 24-year-old student invaded and killed 15 other students at Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic. This massacre is considered the country’s worst mass shooting in history.
- A couple of months ago, in Offenburg, Germany, a 15-year-old student had been shot dead at a school by his classmate, another 15-year-old student. In 2009, a 17-year-old gunman killed nine students and three teachers at a school near Stuttgart.
- On May 2023, a 13-year-old boy guns down eight fellow pupils and a security guard in a Belgrade school.
Even though the number of school incidents is growing in Europe, it is still incomparable with the US statistics.
The history of school shootings in the US is rooted in 1840 when a student shot and killed his professor John Anthony Gardner Davis. The oldest and most famous school shooting in the 20th century took place at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. In 1999, two students opened fire at the school, killing 13 people and wounding more than 20 others before committing suicide themselves. At that time, the Columbine shooting was the deadliest in U.S. history.
In recent history, since 1970, The United States has recorded 2,331 school shootings. Almost 20% of all incidents occurred between 2020 and 2022.
In 2023, there were 346 school shooting incidents across the country, with 57 people killed and 191 wounded. The data shows that the U.S. averaged nearly one incident every day and met its highest total on record since at least 1966.
In the first 8 days of 2024, there have already been reported 2 school shootings, that resulted in injuries or deaths, according to an Education Week analysis. On Jan. 4, a student was killed and seven others were wounded in a shooting at Perry High School in Perry, Iowa. Police say the 17-year-old student suspect died from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Factors contributing to school shooting
Understanding the complex factors that contribute to school shootings is crucial for developing effective prevention strategies. Some common elements include:
1. Access to Firearms
The high availability of firearms is a significant factor in many school shootings. Countries with more stringent gun control measures tend to experience fewer incidents. The United States has the highest gun ownership rate in the world, with 390 million guns owned by its 334 million residents. Barriers to gun ownership are also among the lowest in the world, with most states allowing individuals to purchase a firearm for any purpose and without questions. On the other way, countries in Europe usually require extensive licensing, proof of necessity, mental health checks, background checks, and other measures before allowing a citizen to own a firearm. Addressing gun access is a critical component of any comprehensive strategy, however apparently not the only one.
2. Mental Health Issues
Mental health plays a crucial role in school shootings. Identifying and addressing mental health concerns early on can contribute to preventing violent outbursts. Improved mental health support within educational institutions is vital.
3. Bullying and Social Isolation
Many perpetrators of school shootings have reported experiences of bullying and social isolation. Creating inclusive and supportive environments within schools is essential for mitigating these risk factors.
4. Media Influence
The media’s role in sensationalizing these incidents can inadvertently contribute to a contagion effect, inspiring copycat acts. Responsible reporting and media literacy initiatives can help mitigate this risk.
5. Lack of School Security
Inadequate security measures in schools can make them vulnerable to violent attacks. Enhancing security protocols, such as controlled access points and surveillance, can be part of a comprehensive prevention strategy. In the US, it is fundamental to equip schools and campuses with mass warning devices to notify students in case of shootings or any other type of disaster, such as tornado, hurricane, flooding, fire, etc. Even in European countries, like the Czech Republic or Germany, lawmakers and school directors are starting to open a debate on how to empower school safety. Audible outdoor warning devices such as sirens are considered one of the best ways to notify the public about immediate threats to life. Moreover, devices like electronic sirens nicely complement other security structures and warning tools like PA systems, surveillance, or gun scanners and they might be easily interconnected through SCADA. Another safety features may include SMS notification of first responders (emergency units and rescue teams), push buttons/panic buttons spread all over the campus for immediate alarm activation, Text-To-Speech function accompanying alarm with instructions or adding visual components such as beacons or LED marques). All of the safety structures should be interconnected and activated through one single point.
As Benjamin Franklin, Founding Father of the United States once said: Failing to prepare means preparing to fail. Do not wait until the tragedy happens. Observe the trends and act today to diminish the consequences of any possible disaster on our children.
The article was written by
Dominika is an international business manager responsible for the US and Canadian markets. She is a woman full of energy that she needs to invest into meaningful things. That’s how she fell in love with the mass notification industry. Dominika is also passionate about learning and continuous development. She loves people, books, art, history and new challenges, which makes her feel more alive.