The recent tragedy that occurred in Parkland, Florida has sparked debates throughout the nation regarding how to move forward and keep students and staff out of harm’s way. No matter who is “right” or “wrong”, it is unquestionable that something needs to be done. Some have taken the approach of advocating for additional gun control legislation; others have taken the least partisan route, such as Virginia House of Delegates Speaker Kirk Cox’s House Select Committee on School Safety which delegates its funding solely to services such as emergency preparedness and security infrastructure. Among these proposed solutions stands a disputable concept: arming staff members. When the idea was initially brought into question, many people thought of it as rather ridiculous or even ironic, but it has become a tangible policy in several school systems. 172 Texas school districts allow staff members to carry firearms, and 14 other states have adopted similar policies. Many schools decided to take these measures following the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in 2012. However, a majority of South Lakes staff members are not in favor of more weapons in the school building.
Gun violence is an issue that has the potential to affect each and every member of the South Lakes community and beyond, and it is important for students to know where their authority figures and surrounding adults stand. Students do not have a say in the formal ways of adopting such policies, so it is only reasonable that they get a clear picture of the environment their teachers believe in. Due to the recent lockdown scare, some students and staff have been particularly on edge, but South Lakes as a school has not needed to explicitly address the issue at hand. Stoneman Douglas went on to issue translucent backpacks, and several states passed gun control legislation, but what will South Lakes do? In the wake of the Florida shooting, Fairfax police “ordered officers to patrol closer to schools” but the question is how that actually translates into students’ daily lives.
“We come to school thinking that we’re safe. Our parents are just blindingly dropping us off at the kiss-and-ride thinking, ‘She’ll be fine. We’ll see her at the end of the day,” but giving teachers guns just adds another anxiety for the parents and especially for the kids. It totally gets rid of the safe environment,” sophomore Alicia Goyone explained.
No matter how the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors decides to proceed, it is imperative that students recognize the roles they can play in the process of ensuring the safety of the community. Sometimes steep measures such as assault weapon bans or metal detectors are appropriate, but for most people the biggest thing that can be done on a daily basis is to treat each person with the same kindness as the next. Often times, the people who find themselves in a position of anger and with a weapon in their hands are the people who just somehow managed to slip through the cracks. With this said, remember to smile at people when you pass them in the hall or take the initiative to include someone at the lunch table, because the consequences of the failure to reach out to one another leave a mark on everyone.