I was at Marietta Square drinking tea and shopping at antique stores with my mom and some visiting family when I got a series of frantic texts from my friend in Dallas, Texas. I stepped aside to check my phone and learned that someone had put gunpowder in some fireworks and set them off during passing period in the hallway of my old middle school.
To give you some background information, I moved to Marietta, Georgia from Dallas, Texas on New Year’s Day of 2019. I texted all my friends at my old school who were there to check up on them. Over half of them told me they had panic attacks or had been burned by the explosives. Students and teachers alike couldn’t breathe due to asthma attacks. Others fainted, and some called their loved ones, thinking there was an active shooter.
I told my mom and we checked the school’s Facebook page and our emails, but nothing had been said about it. Though events like this at my former school and other nearby middle and high schools are not a rare occurrence, it has the same huge impact on students and teachers each time and no impact on everyone else. There were no stories on it, nothing mentioned in the news, and it wasn’t even posted on the parent Facebook page. It was hushed.
Then, just last week, some kids publicly posted on Instagram about setting a shed at the back of the school on fire and nothing was done. No one was phased.
This is not okay.
For example, in November of 2018 at Morgan Park High School in Chicago, Illinois, a student was charged with attempted arson after setting off fireworks in the hallway. The worst part about this incident, in my opinion, is that it is the only highlighted story you see when you search for “fireworks set off in school” or “fireworks in school.” If your first thought was that this may seem like a good thing, consider that there are so many more incidents like this not being shared. It has happened multiple times in my old school and other schools nearby, and there is virtually no way for our story to be the only one brushed under the carpet. I researched stories about fireworks and explosives in schools for two days and all I found was that story. We need to protect our public schools for the overall health of students, teachers, and administrators everywhere, as opposed to ignoring the dangers of hiding these stories to keep a good image of the school.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, during the 2015-2016 school year, 79% of public schools reported one or more incidents of violence, theft, or other crimes, including possession of explosive devices, amounting to 1.4 million crimes in one school year. Students and teachers are at risk of their mental and physical health being damaged in an average day of public school. This is affecting people all over the country, and not much is being done.
There is something schools can do, though. At my former school, the only time they lock the back entrance doors is if there is a soft lockdown, when there is a threat outside the building. On normal days, students can slip in without going through the metal detectors or having their bags checked. If students can do this, it means anyone can. Securing the building and following standard procedure would make a big difference. There would also be huge strides toward improvement if there were actually effective consequences. A student should be permanently expelled for setting off fireworks at school or setting school property on fire. Doors should stay locked at all times, security cameras should be installed, there should be specific entrances for students, et cetera. It may sound like an invasion of privacy or overkill, but once you’ve experienced fireworks being set off in a crowded hallway or a real soft lockdown not being reported to parents, you’ll agree with me.
What action can you take, though?
Students and parents can take action to make our schools safer by going to your local elected officials, talking to your school’s administration, and spreading awareness of the issue of safety in public schools. I don’t know about you, but I would feel so much safer and more comfortable attending school with boosted safety procedures and if people actually knew about what’s happening in our public schools.