Is This the New Norm? 10 Dead in School Shooting

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A school shooting in Sante Fe, Texas has claimed 10 lives and left at least 10 others injured police are reporting. A suspect has been arrested, 17-year-old Dimitrios Pagourtzis. Harris County Sherrif, Ed Gonzalez says it’s believed he is a student at the school.

It still grabs me each time I hear or read the headline; it blares loudly even though it makes no sound. “Children Murdered at School,” it says, and all of us cringe—again.

Over the next hours and days, news coverage will convey the growing rift between the two sides and the argument will start over who and what is to blame. The loud yelling voices from both sides will drown out the sound of gunfire and screams, for a while or until the next school shooting.

The problem according to former New York City police chief, Bill Bratton is that school shootings have become the new norm. “The reality is, this is something that will just continue to occur,” he said in an interview recently.

The numbers don’t lie either. At the time of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, statistics showed there was a school shooting every 60 hours in the United States. And the reality is for many, the prospect of another school shooting is not as horrific as it was a decade ago. It is now a common occurrence in the USA.

Florida reporter, Lulu Ramadan has covered three mass shootings in the last two years, including one at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. “Regrettably it has become familiar so I know what I am getting into—I know what the scene will look like, I know what people will say and what they will describe. It is just a product of seeing it so many times,” she says.

Still, it remains the worst nightmare for parents, the fact that we cannot protect the safety of our children as we send them off to school. When I grew up in the 60s, the new norm was another threat. Just two blocks from my home was an air raid siren. Not a leftover relic from the second world war, but a new warning device. This one designed to tell us to take cover if the Soviets were attacking with nuclear bombs and missiles.

It was a terrifying prospect then and to ease concerns of parents who envisioned their young children could be snuffed out so easily, the government produced a cartoon called “Bert the Turtle” that was played before bomb drills to tell our children what to do in case of nuclear attack.

To musical lyrics, Bert the Turtle sang to children to “Duck and Cover” when the bomb went off. It was by all accounts a whimsical solution to a deadly problem. The truth was even if children did “Drop and Cover” a bomb blast would have incinerated them in just a moment; there was no protection against such a deadly foe.

Today the government is proposing a new solution, armed guards or better yet some say—armed teachers. Sheldon Greenberg is a former cop, who has seen too many murders. Now, an education professor at Johns Hopkins University, he is studying how we plan on responding to this new growing threat. He openly admits there is only a small amount of data on arming teachers, but the discussion on this practice has been debated since 1999 after the Columbine school shooting that left 13 dead.

The idea resurfaced with more vigor in 2012 after the Sandy Hook shooting, where 20 children between the ages of 6 and 7 years old were gunned down. It was again introduced before the Parkland shooting laws had changed and 18 states were already allowing adults to carry loaded weapons on school property. But there has been a spate of incidents in and out of classrooms involving teachers and others meant to protect kids with guns. In 2016, a sheriff’s deputy in a Michigan high school fired his gun while testing a robotic machine. It hit a teacher in the neck. Then there was the correctional officer who was applying for a security job at a Florida school when he accidentally shot himself in the knee. In Utah four years ago, a teacher accidentally shot herself in the leg. And in 2013, a Police officer assigned to a New York high school after the Sandy Hook shooting accidentally fired his weapon in a hallway.

Greenberg is preparing research on arming teachers, using a wide array of data that examines the effectiveness of police (who are highly trained) in similar situations. His early findings are not encouraging, and he calls the prospect of armed teachers stopping a shooter a “Crapshoot.”

His research so far shows that despite police officers’ extensive training and familiarity with high-risk and life-threatening events, the evidence is “They do not shoot accurately in a crisis encounter. It’s likely that teachers would be far less effective.”

In real terms, the greatest fear is that if a teacher is armed and that teacher faces an active shooter, the prospect of “collateral damage” is very high. “Collateral damage” is a statement in disguise. It’s a polite way of saying innocent kids will be killed in the crossfire.

If a policy of arming teachers were to be seriously contemplated, the government would need to placate anxious parents that this is the safest solution. Like they tried to when I was a child, and the threat was nuclear weapons. One can only imagine a DC-based advertising executive is preparing mockups of today’s “Bert the Turtle” updated for the times. Not with nursery rhyme music but perhaps Hip Hop telling kids to “Drop and Cover” as bullets fly.

The difference in my time? The threat came from overseas. We had managed to paint the Soviets as the devils in common. So, it became easy to demonize everything about them. But today’s potential killers don’t originate from an overseas threat; today’s killers are the lonely, awkward teenager down the street, the disgruntled boyfriend. They are people who will be described by those who know them as “Normal.” We will hear additionally, “I had no idea this was coming.”

English writer, Gilbert Keith Chesterton wrote over 150 years ago that “The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because generally, they are the same people.”

Perhaps he is more right today than he was then.
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