First and foremost, schools are environments built upon a sense of security and safety. Should those values be broken in any way, it could damage an individual’s social trust and undermine their learning ability in an educational setting. Sadly, violence in schools across the nation has been on the rise in recent years.
According to the National Youth Violence Prevention Center in 2003, 9 percent of high-school students reported being injured or threatened with a weapon within the course of the year. Based on data collected by the National Center for Education Statistics, 71 percent of public schools in the United States have reported at least one violent incident occurring on school grounds. The total number of incidents surpasses the million mark. The disturbing fact is that this information was gathered for the 1999-2000 school year. Unfortunately, this overly-high percentage has not declined in recent years.
The purpose of this article is not to frighten anyone away from an education or, moreover, to paint a portrait that schools are inherently unsafe. On the contrary, schools are statistically and comparatively one of the safest locations in the United States. However, this is not to say that one should neglect being aware of their surroundings at all times or leave their own personal safety to chance.
The School Shooting
The ultimate fear in an educational setting has become the ever-increasing threat of a school shooting. Two major school shootings occurred in 1996, while 2008 had seen a total of six – three times the amount from little over a decade ago. Most of these incidents are isolated to high schools and university campuses.
We are all worried about shootings in school, either as a student or as parents of a student. There is no designated profile for the ‘school shooter’ nor any set rules that they abide by or what the shooter is supposed to look like. As a student, if you hear anyone who is making any sort of threat, whether it be bomb threats, gun threats, etc., it should be immediately reported to a teacher, guidance counselor, or any faculty member at once. The idea is to be very aware, at all times. This includes being aware of any strangers in school who may look suspicious or give you an uneasy feeling. Follow your instinct, in doing so you’re usually right nine out of ten times. As the age-old motto goes: better to be safe than sorry.
In the event that somebody does come to school with a firearm and opens fire, psychologically, what most people will do is run. Although running might feel like the natural choice, this is the wrong thing to do. Keep in mind that you have a crazed person on your hands, the shooter is aiming for anything that moves. By running, you will only give him one more moving target and you can not outrun a bullet. Not only do you need to tell yourself, but practice the process mentally in your head that, when you hear those gunshots, you want to hit the floor and basically ‘play dead’. In the shooter’s condition and in the chaos of the situation, they will likely be using run-and-gun tactics and not linger around one area for long. Once the shooter is away, you can take cover and seek a nearby place to hide. Never, under any circumstances, play the hero. Unlike in standard Hollywood-fare, it is unlikely that you will be able to disarm the shooter.
Hazards On The Campus
A concern for many parents are the dangers that can be found on a college campus. Alcohol and drug abuse are still prevalent on many campuses across the country, and therefore, create risks that many college students will be exposed to during their enrollment. As students, it is important to be extremely wary at parties where drinks are being passed around. It only takes a brief moment for somebody to slip something into your drink. Also, if someone hands you a drink that looks cloudy or there appears to something in it, don’t drink it. Above all, never ask someone who you don’t know well to hold or watch your drink while you leave the room, go to the bathroom, etc. This could be the same individual who could slip something into your drink. In addition, if your drink has been out of sight for any period of time, don’t finish it. If you’re in a place with people you don’t know well, never over drink. Always keep your mental awareness with you.
Despite the ever-increasing number of drugs to hit the streets, alcohol still remains the leading ‘date rape drug’. Statistically, during the average school year, one-out-of-four women will be sexually assaulted on a college campus. One-out-of-eight will be raped while enrolled in college, and eighty-four percent will be raped by someone that they will know. Many students involved in a date-rape have been either drinking or willingly/involuntarily been subjected to a drug of some sort.
For students who are either beginning their college career, or transferring to another campus, there are some precautions that should be taken. Before the new semester begins, one should explore the campus, getting to know the surrounding locations and the quickest way back to the dorm or place of residence. Also, if going to a larger college or university, there may be ’emergency buttons’ on the campus grounds. Be sure to find out where they are located. Today, many campuses even offer a safety workshop for students; inquire about when one is being held.