On Tuesday January 18th, my high school made the news, a kid brought a gun to school. When he placed his backpack down it accidently discharged and one bullet hit 2 kids. The two 15 year olds were taken to the hospital. The rest of the students were put on lockdown while the LAUSD police, Gardena P.D., and LAPD showed up with helicopters, squad cars, and guns to find the 17 year old sophmore who brought a weapon to school.
The media gladly followed the sensation, a young black kid made a mistake and someone had to criminalize him and the entire student population. Parents called and texted their kids to make sure they were ok. Rumors, fear, and confusion swam all around. When students were allowed to leave the classroom after lockdown, they came out with their hands in the air and guns pointed at them. Every young kid at this school became a victim of trauma and violence once again.
Thankfully kids are not killing one another at school everyday. Unfortunately young people do resort to violence if they are threatened or if they are angry and desperate. In this young man’s case, he was being threatened by gang members. In our American culture, we do not teach children effective conflict resolution and communication skills. In our culture, boys and men are especially taught to be tough. Male anger is not challenged enough, instead it is encouraged and glorified.
We must consider the types of adversities that teenagers are facing in a society we’ve handed to them that can cause violent or unhealthy behavior. Working class communities of color lack resources and safe places. There are very few jobs but plenty of opportunities to get into trouble. There are drugs, liquor stores, and gangs around the corners. Many young people find their way around this reality. I found a way. Many kids try to focus as much as possible on their studies, but other youth may not have support at home. There are parents that work multiple jobs, there are single parent households, domestic violence, economic hardships, incarceration of family members, and the list goes on. Young people suffer from depression and low self-esteem. Schools do not motivate children to be excited about learning or to work towards career and life long goals. Schools teach to test. Schools have tired teachers. Schools have under-paid teachers. Schools don’t have enough teachers. As a society, we do not invest in ALLLLL of our children’s education enough.
I listen to the youth i work with every week. And they are trying to make it through. They want to be succesful individuals. But our youth need support and encouragement. They do not need more criminalization the way the media portrayed students from GHS. They need love at home, at school, and in the community. “It takes a village to raise a child” and that means we all need to commit in one way or another to young people’s future. Maybe we all can’t give time to every teenager on the block, but we all have little cousins, younger siblings, nephews & nieces. We need to take care of one another.
Young people survive traumas everyday. The school shooting affected every student on that campus. They were all on lockdown, praying that it was none of their friends who was hurt. They were escorted out of their classrooms and in some cases the students were walking out with their hands in the air and guns pointed back at them by uniformed officers. The kid who brought the gun is already facing prosecution and they want to try him as an adult. Prison’s are not places where you can heal and become a better person. Prison’s dehumanize, further traumatize, and perpetrate more violence.
I write all of this because we really need to watch over our youth. They need to become functional, healthy adults. They need to be intelligent and help their communities grow positively. But it’s gonna take all of our efforts and not metal detectors or school police to stop violence on school campuses.