Written by Debra Murray
PRP has had several issues regarding students carrying guns this year, which is seemingly more of an issue this year than during previous years. According to a PBS article, students in the United States were caught carrying a firearm at school 1,576 times throughout the 2016-2017 school year.
“I feel, in general, unsafe at school. According to an online, student-led poll for PRP students, 76% of students agreed that they’ve felt unsafe at school at least once this 2019- 2020 school year. A school is supposed to be a sanctuary, not a battle ground. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, a psychological theory and model that shows that the most basic human needs are those on the bottom-most tier and the tiers above are the more complex needs, posits that a tier must be fulfilled completely for the tiers above to be experienced. Safety is the second tier from the bottom, meaning that a neglect of safety yields an inability to experience the superior tiers: love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization. How are students supposed to be a part of their school’s community, have a love and passion for learning, have confidence in themselves and their knowledge, and live up to their full potential if the basic need of safety is neglected?” said Junior Tessa Carby.
Many students have raised concerns about whether they are safe at school. School in general is meant to be a safe space for students, but many students feel as if they should be worried about their safety. Despite this seeming to be a large issue at PRP, there are very few occurrences at other schools. According to the Indicators of School Crime and Safety from the National Center for Education Statistics, the overall rate of students who brought firearms to school was only six out of every 100,000 students in the United States for the 2016-2017 school year.
“I don’t like the fact that there are students walking around our school armed. There are people who deal with it, but they do not communicate these issues to students,” said Senior Austin Rivers.
School should be a rewarding and enriching experience, not something students fear coming to. In a survey done by Pew Research Center, 57% of students were worried about the possibility of a shooting at their school after the tragic shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018. According to the Washington Post, there are ten school shootings per year on average.
“As students, we are told to follow the rule of “if you see something, say something,” which in itself is a reasonable principle and does indeed help protect the student body. It is our job to learn and reach our full academic potential. It is not, however, our job to ensure the safety of our classmates, a responsibility for school-wide officers. Change shouldn’t start from the bottom with scared school children. Change needs to start at the top with our elected board members,” said Carby.
One change at PRP is that there is no longer an School Resource Officer to patrol the school, where in previous years there was a SRO, which seemed to help limit safety issues at PRP. The National Center for Education Statistics found that 42 percent of schools had a school resource officer, which is ten percent higher than in previous years.
“I can not attribute this growing trend to any one thing, but I think that it is at least partially due to the removal of our SRO officers. JCPS began the 2019-2020 school year without SRO officers and though I don’t have the official statistics, it seems as though the amount of violence and the number of weapons brought into school has increased significantly. I believe that the presence alone of an officer in the building will deter students from such behaviors.
“Will the reintroduction of SRO officers solve all of our problems? Absolutely not. There will always be violence and unfavorable situations at school. That is simply the world that we live in, but the reintroduction of SRO officers will help reduce the number of incidents and help the students feel safer,” said Carby.
Many students feel that having a SRO made school feel safer, and that it would help limit the safety issues that have been occurring recently at PRP. Reasoning for a student carrying a gun to school may vary, but many are simply using it as protection, although it does still violate laws. Researchers for the National Institute of Health, and National Institute of Mental Health did an interview with students about being armed at school. The majority of students responded that they carried it for protection while in school or while transporting between home and school.
“JCPS predicted that the SRO officers would be reintroduced in February 2020, but as of now it is being extended to the fall of 2020. This means four more school months of schools lacking the necessary protection and security that we desperately need. Violence doesn’t stop for extended deadlines. The unfortunate reality is that school shootings are a normality in the United States and the removal of our SRO officers has put JCPS schools in a position where we are more of an easy target,” continued Carby.
Tessa Carby also wrote a letter to the JCPS superintendent about there no longer being an SRO at PRP. Read the letter here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/182ufi0OPZO5b6xTnWPx4OInasW9NqW0wlUEIFyQ4Qwc