Opinion: ‘School is meant to be a safe place’


The Spartan Scoop, under fair use

Sarah Buttikofer brings awareness to the threat of school shootings while talking about the most recent shooting at Oxford High School in suburban Detroit.

Sarah Buttikofer, Editor in Chief

As a student, I constantly have one fear in the back of my head: a school shooting.

According to a 2018 CNN study “since 2009, at least 177 of America’s schools have experienced a shooting.”

It’s petrifying—unsettling to say the least—that we are somewhat at risk every day we attend school. School is meant to be a safe place, but every time a school shooting story breaks the news, I become a little less sure of our educational environment. 

I would like to make it clear that there is no one to blame for this ongoing issue and the administration tries as hard as they can to keep their students happy and safe, but some problems are just out of their control. The police officers set around the school definitely bring an inkling of reassurance, but the chances they are in the right place at the right time when a gun is pulled…slim to none.

While I am sure they will lessen mortality rates if a tragedy is to happen, it is easy to imagine yourself as one of the unlucky ones. According to the same CNN study, a school shooting has, on average, two victims; there have been 171 shootings with three or fewer victims and nine with more than four from 2009 until 2018. The constant fear of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, AKA the unlucky ones, is far from ideal. That idea begs the question of when school stopped being—what a child could at least think of—as a safe environment.

Everyone may not remember that exact moment, but I remember it like it was yesterday. I was in the fifth grade: 11 years old. 

At that age during lockdowns it was common to hear “there is a tiger in the building,” or “I heard there was a fistfight.” To be completely honest, all these options were better than the true reason behind these drills.

While the incident was nothing but a drill, I still remember the blatant fear I felt in those moments. We followed normal procedures but the drill—at least in my young brain—took longer than usual. For all, I know it could have been a few seconds longer but that didn’t stop my mind from wandering to the worst possibilities. My brother was in Kindergarten at the time, and my mind was racing with possible ways I could get to him.

Luckily, it did not come to that.

The other day, we had a lockdown. My teacher ran to the door to close it and I immediately felt my stomach tighten up. My mind started to think of escape plans as I realized I was in the front row of the class and most likely to be targeted. Being a student, being at school, is living with this constant fear.

Nonetheless, 356 victims have been killed between 2009 and 2018—not a comforting statistic while I sit in a classroom writing this article.

The problem only escalates, as school shooting rates are increasing with a devastating 30 gun downs per year according to CNN’s 2018 study.

Why do we have to fear being stripped of our young lives while just trying to receive an education? It’s a revolting and tragic depiction of our world.

But, if we want that to be the case one day, the only option is change.

The evidence shows a 15-year-old who has repeatedly informed his parent that he was hallucinating, the same 15-year-old who continuously demonstrated tendencies that were worrisome – all able to be found by his parents. ”

— Oakland County Assistant Prosecutor Marc Keast

The even sadder part: sometimes we miss the obvious signs. 

Since the most recent shooting occurred at Oxford High School in suburban Detroit, this has proven to be the case. The day before the tragedy occurred, 15-year-old shooter, Ethan Crumbley was called down to the office for looking up bullets and ammunition in school. His mother, Jennifer Crumbley, texted him about the issue, to which they warmly conversed and she texted, “lol I’m.not mad. you have to learn not.to.get caught.” Fox News has all the texts marked as concerning in this article.

Signs even aroused before this incident as Ethan was texting his mom that “he thought there was a demon, a ghost, or someone else inside the home,” as he was having clear hallucinations according to Fox News. Videos were also found on Ethan’s phone that showed him torturing animals. He even kept the remains of some of the dead animals in his room for months. On top of that, Ethan clearly had access to guns as he posted a picture of one on social media and texted his friend “It’s time to shoot up the school JK JK JK.”

An article by Fox News reported that Jennifer was even called to the school the day of the shooting because of her son’s use of “alarming drawings.”

Fox News quotes Oakland County Assistant Prosecutor Marc Keast as saying, “The evidence shows a 15-year-old who has repeatedly informed his parent that he was hallucinating, the same 15-year-old who continuously demonstrated tendencies that were worrisome – all able to be found by his parents.”

So—could this have been prevented? The answer is absolutely, without a doubt, yes. A multitude of signs of violence and instability were shown and yet people still chose to ignore the issue. 

As a community, we need to pay attention and take action when these obvious signs arise. If we turn a blind eye, we are risking an upcoming tragedy every day. 

Now there are four students dead and a whole community traumatized.

We can and we have no choice but to do better. 

We lost four young lives—when it could have been prevented—and for that, we will always be sorry. The only upside and silver lining is that we can change our ways in the future. Numerous people failed the four victims of the Oxford shooting, but it doesn’t always have to be like that.

Maybe, just maybe, one day we will live in a world where we don’t have to hear about a tragic shooting every month. 

Maybe it’s even possible that I, and other students, can sit and feel safe in our classrooms.