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Seven – that’s the number of school shootings that have already occurred this year, and it’s not even February.
This disturbing trend is settling into our schools at all levels. A glance back at 2013 reveals there were 30 shooting incidents in our nation’s schools, half of which resulted in fatalities. Already, three of this year’s shootings were at college campuses.
The most recent college shooting was a fatal incident at South Carolina State Jan. 24. But other threats of violence in our schools, including rape and suicide, are also on the rise. On Dec. 13, a student at Harvard emailed a bomb threat to the FBI.
News reports during these events question the motives of the perpetrators. We watch as investigative reporters search out the events leading up to the incidents. We see the measures that law enforcement and school officials take to minimize future threats. We mark the one, five and 10 year anniversaries to mourn our losses and take inventory of how far we have come. We listen to the stories of those who saw and experienced unspeakable traumas and lost people they loved.
And, sadly, we become numb to tragedy.
Eventually, we learn that there were warning signs that these individuals were troubled. Often, there is a history of abuse, mental illness or bullying. At some point, these troubled young people may have voiced their concerns, worries, fears and, in many cases, their heinous plans.
But no one intervenes.
While the rise of violence in schools across the country is disturbing and, yes, scary, students shouldn’t be afraid to attend classes or live on campus.
Wake up and be aware of what fellow students are feeling and thinking. Becoming engaged with our peers and professors is a part of our duty when we step onto this campus. A willingness to speak up is necessary for a safe and effective campus community.
No matter how stressed we may be about tests and papers, it is not okay – or harmless – to joke about a fire burning down the library or a bomb in the science building. When our friends talk about ending it all and giving up, we need to let them know that we are here for them.
Here at Emporia State, we are lucky to have some amazing and useful resources to help prevent these tragedies. One of these is the CARE (Consultation, Assessment, Referral, Education) Team, specifically created and designed to help students in need. Students can file a report on the CARE Team’s homepage on ESU’s official website. If you are worried about someone on campus, contact them at CARE@emporia.edu. If someone is in immediate danger and needs assistance call Police & Safety at 620-341-5337 or 911.
Even if you simply overhear a conversation is alarming or makes you feel an ounce of concern, do something. Speak up, reach out and be aware. Courage saves lives.