SENSE OF SECURITY: The problem of school shootings in America
JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) – They are the calls happening all too often in America. Police are responding to school shootings at a growing rate, nationwide.
“School shootings have been going on for years,” said Jonesboro Police Chief Rick Elliott.
Since 1970, data found 589 people have died because of a school shooting in the United States. Five of those victims were in Northeast Arkansas when two students opened fire at Westside Middle School on March 24, 1998.
Elliott knows the reality of school shootings. He was one of the first officers to respond to Westside when two students pulled the fire alarm and began shooting when those inside exited the building.
“It looked like a warzone,” Elliott said. “You had people running everywhere. You had teachers trying to get kids out of the line of fire, what was the line of fire
“There is no explanation to why this happened,” said Brandi Varner, whose sister Britthny was shot that day.
Eleven-year-old Britthney Varner died in surgery. It was there at the hospital that Brandi learned her sister was dead.
“The emotion you feel in a moment of seconds is so powerful and overwhelming because I remember when he came in and said it, and the first part of what he said, ‘When she got here’ and I remember being hopeful that she would be okay,” she said recently.
Since that day, hundreds more children have died while attending class.
Since 1970, the Sandy Hook Promise estimates there have been more than 2,000 school shootings. One of the deadliest, was the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in which 27 people were killed. Since that day, the numbers have grown.
Since 1970, more than 2,000 school shootings have been reported. Of those, 948 have taken place since Sandy Hook
In the 2020- 2021 school year alone, the National Center for Education Statistics found there were 93 shootings at a public or private school. Beyond the dead and wounded, children who see the violence or hide from a barrage of bullets can be profoundly traumatized.
The Sandy Hook Promise, a non-profit created to protect schools from gun violence, found since the Columbine High School shooting in 1999 that 300,000 students have been on campus during a shooting.
Those students’ lives are something police must consider as they rush in.
“You have the wounded, and you have the psychologically injured,” Chief Elliott said. “They’re not hurt, but they are laying on the ground and they couldn’t move.”
The likelihood of long-term affects is high. An estimated 3 million children in the U.S are exposed to shootings per year, whether at school, in their communities, or at their home. The majority of them are teens.
The United States Secret Service estimates more than 70 percent of school shootings occur in high schools.
“You can’t plan 100% that everything will go smoothly according to plan,” Elliott said.
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