BY COOPER HALL
Uniting a high school is hard work, but I watched it happen at South Iredell High on April 5 as students participated in the national walkout to protest gun violence in schools.
Students are tired of gun violence and tired of being afraid of going to school. I have been in a classroom and watched everyone jump when a book was dropped in the hallway, sending a sound echoing through the school that sounded a little bit like a gunshot. I have been in a classroom when a lockdown was announced over the speakers. I have sat in the corner of a dark classroom, surrounded by my peers. I have texted my friends and family that “I love them” while waiting for the police to unlock the door.
I don’t wish these experiences on anyone. Yet I know that am incredibly lucky. I’ve never been in a school shooting, and I don’t personally know anyone who has. Too many other students cannot say the same. Too many students have been murdered in what should be a safe place.
School lockdowns were not a typical procedure before the early 2000s, according to Child Trends, so most people with the power to make change have never experienced a lockdown or school shooting. I have grown up in the age of gun violence and have experienced firsthand changes in my schools. From elementary to high school, security has become tighter and drills more frequent. In elementary school, I remember being yelled at for opening the door for a pizza delivery man. I was too young to understand what I did wrong; I thought I was being helpful. I remember going into lockdown after school one day in third grade, while we were in art club. Again, I didn’t know what was going on; I just knew we had to stop working on our art and sit in the dark.
The first time I learned why lockdowns were necessary was in the fifth grade. My siblings were all in middle school and their school went into lockdown. After school they told me about their experiences and the plans they made to protect themselves if shooting had started. The first time I was in an actual lockdown was in seventh grade. There had been a robbery in a store near our school. I asked my teacher if it was a drill, and she just told me to get in the corner. I was terrified. The second time I experienced a real lockdown was during my sophomore year. My friends in other buildings were texting saying they heard gunshots, while my other friend was crying next to me. It was terrifying to not know what was going on and to think I might be waiting to be shot. I didn’t go to school the next day.
On December 16, 2021, our principal sent an email notifying students and parents that there would be tighter security and more police on campus the next day because there had been a national threat of gun violence and and the day had been declared “national school shooting day” on social media. I was too afraid to go to school that day as well. These experiences aren’t ones that many adults can relate to, but they have become commonplace.
According to Campus Safety magazine, there have been 1,924 school shootings since 1970, resulting in 637 deaths and 1,734 injuries. The Independent recently reported that there have been 39 incidents involving gunfire on school grounds, leading to 18 deaths, so far this year.
After each school shooting social media is flooded with support. I’ve watched this happen time and time again. I watch the news and I see a school, a place of learning, turned into a place of killing. And then, the next morning, I go back to school and I see the tweets and the posts, and every time I think something must change — surely, this must be the turning point. I think maybe there are finally enough dead people to force those in positions of power to make a change.
I am wrong every time.
Despite how horrifying the news of the latest school shooting is, it is no longer unexpected. Nothing will change if we do not make some changes. I don’t want my children to have the same experiences with gun violence that I have had.
I am proud of my classmates at South Iredell High for taking a stand against gun violence in schools. How many more children must die before our elected representatives decide this is a problem worth addressing?
Cooper Hall is a junior at South Iredell High School.