Fear of school shootings is shaping America’s youth

students are fearful after news of school shootings. Illustration: Thayer Sindelar · The Sentry

Recent Colorado incident increased anxiety
Students are fearful after news of school shootings.
Illustration: Thayer Sindelar · The Sentry

K–12 students across the state of Colorado got an unplanned day off on April 17 as Colorado authorities conducted a region-wide manhunt for Columbine infatuate Sol Pais. Eighteen-year-old Pais was found dead late on the morning of April 17 near the base of Mount Evans. The National Rifle Association has not released a statement on the incident on their official website or on Twitter.

While the frightening ordeal was over in less than 24 hours, it sparked yet another conversation around the culture of mass shootings. “It’s sort of just constantly hanging over everyone,” 18-year-old Josh Kellog, a senior at Cherokee Trail High School in Aurora, Colorado, said. “Everyone’s hyper-aware of it and nobody really knows how to go about it.”

“I’m glad we don’t have school but not because I want to lay in bed all day. I’m glad our safety is being prioritized. It shouldn’t be seen as a day off when going to school meant putting lives at stake,” CTHS senior Jordan Shykind said.

The trauma inflicted by mass shootings isn’t just singularly applicable to those individuals who have been directly in the line of fire. There is a collective trauma that all American high schoolers face each day. These traumas have been extensively studied by psychologists and reported on through outlets like NPR. Whether it be a loud noise in the hallway, the chime of the announcement bells in the middle of a class, or the sharp pitch of a scream during passing period, there are little things that trigger the fight-or-flight response of teenagers across the country.

“Whenever anyone mentions school being cancelled the other week, we just say, ‘You know, that thing that happened,’ and nobody wants to think about how different it could have been,” Kellog said.

And he’s not alone in his apprehension. Shykind said the following on her anxiety surrounding attending school: “It’s coming to the point where it’s not safe for us to go to school and get an education because of someone who was able to get a gun so easily.”

While the debate around gun control remains a volatile subject, many Colorado citizens are still stumped as to how an out-of-state 18-year-old was able to purchase a gun immediately after entering the state.

“It made me furious. Someone with a known mental condition can walk into any gun store and potentially carry out an act of violence the same day,” Lynne Collinsworth, a third grade teacher, said. Collinsworth is currently employed at Pine Ridge Elementary School, but she originally hails from Newtown, Connecticut, where 26 elementary schoolers and educators were murdered in 2012. “I think at the very least we should make it harder to get a gun. It’s ridiculous that it’s easier to get a gun than to get alcohol or a driver’s license for someone that age,” Kellog reasoned.

“[The students] all know we practice in case someone gets into our school wanting to hurt them, and that, of course, causes fear, anxiety, and bewilderment. It strips their innocence. I saw that level of stress go up after the Sol Pais incident. It made the drills more real. Kids had more questions, more tears,” Collinsworth added. “It’s astounding to me that the powers that be have such little regard for our most precious gift—our kids. What is a country that doesn’t protect its most vulnerable? It’s unfathomable that school is now one of the most unsafe places to be.”

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