Creating a culture of safety

With the threat of gun violence redefining what it means to be a safe school, security begins with the community

On February 14, 2018, a student opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, killing 17 people and injuring many others. This incident was not the first of its kind, nor the last.

Less than seven months since the tragedy, there have already been several instances of gun violence on school campuses. On March 20, barely a month after the infamous Parkland shooting, an armed student shot two others at Great Mills High School in Lexington Park, Maryland. While one of the two students escaped without life-threatening injuries, Jaelynn Willey was not as lucky; she was rushed to the hospital in critical condition. Two days later, Jaelynn was taken off of life support.

America is, unfortunately, no stranger to the effects of gun violence. As of June 28, 177 days had passed since the beginning of 2018. There had already been 154 mass shootings. They occur so often that we have become rather numb to them. As the news about the tragedy that occurred at Parkland spread throughout the nation, the general attitude was not, “how could this have happened?” but rather, “well, this happened again.”

When shootings occur, we feel sad for the victims and sympathetic towards their families for a rather short amount of time; then, we go on with our lives, and repeat this cycle when necessary. In wake of previous tragedies, such as those at Sandy Hook Elementary and Pulse Nightclub, the general response was many thoughts and prayers, but little action. Regardless of individual political affiliation or views, this lack of progress made towards any kind of change has created a general apathy regarding incidents of gun violence. It is not that people don’t care — it simply becomes increasingly difficult to repeatedly hear about mass gun violence.

In the aftermath of Parkland, one thing that was particularly striking was the reaction from students — not only from those who attended Stoneman Douglas, but from others all across the country. At Ransom Everglades, students participated in a walkout on in April that included a march to City Hall, where speakers shared how gun violence had affected them. The issue spawned open forums, where all members of the Ransom Everglades community were invited to share their opinions on gun violence and ideas for school safety. Amidst the tragedy, we experienced a national surge of strength, as well as one within our own community.

As a nationwide debate arose on school safety, the Ransom Everglades community joined in. We have made our voices heard both at school and at the nation’s capital during the March for Our Lives, a protest against gun violence in schools.

Ms. Jenny Carson, who was absent in the spring due to maternity leave, returned to see a united community: “There was a heightened response to gun violence in schools post the experience at Marjory Stoneman Douglas that made national news, and we saw students take it upon themselves to start responding. I was not here to see [firsthand] how our student body responded to that, but seeing that there was a Students Against Gun Violence club that started — which I assume was in direct response — it was to say ‘we need to respond too.’”

We as a community are extremely comfortable in our environment at Ransom Everglades, and so we are all fighting in hopes that others can feel the same way. In regards to safety on campus, Ms. Carson perfectly summarized it, saying, “I see [the culture of safety] in our actions. I see it in the way students leave their book bags around. People are pretty free in their willingness to walk out of class,” without suspicions raised by others they see in the hallway.

Regarding the issue of possibly increasing safety in our community, Ms. Lindsay Danielson, Dean of Students, said, “I think we get very wrapped up in the solution as an exterior piece that we bring in, when in reality, sometimes the solution is within our community already, and it’s the people that are here.” We are lucky to be at a school where we can feel safe, and we are all still working to make Ransom Everglades safer.

Gun violence is a terrifying issue that has become a reality for so many Americans. It is clear from every discussion and open forum that each member of the Ransom Everglades community has their own ideas about how to improve safety, in terms of both our school and the country. It’s sometimes difficult to figure out exactly how to reconcile all of the different visions, but many members of Ransom Everglades are passionately fighting for the change they believe in.

In an environment such as this one, it is important to remember that the end goal of safety is largely shared, and people just have different ways to go about reaching it. Ransom Everglades should continue holding open forums so that the community can discuss these important topics in an open minded, inclusive way. It is only when everyone is listened to that true change can begin to be made.