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School shooting: the narrative you know by heart

May. 23, 2018
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Here’s a story you are used to. 

On Friday morning, Santa Fe High School in Texas joined a list of 21 other schools that have these two things in common: they are located in the United States, and they have suffered a shooting wherein at least one person was hurt or killed. 

Eight students and two teachers were killed, and thirteen others were wounded during the short attack upon the high school according to NPR. The names of the victims of the shooting were Sabika Sheikh, Chris Stone, Angelique Ramirez, Kimberly Jessica Vaughan, Shana Fisher, Christian Riley Garcia, Aaron Kyle McLeod, Jared Conard Black, Glenda Perkins, and Cynthia Tisdale. 

The Wall Street Journal reported that the alleged perpetrator is a 17-year-old male named Dimitrios Pagourtzis who is currently in custody.

The names of the Santa Fe High School victims join the 17 victims of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida that occurred just this February. School shootings have become a familiar story that, in many ways, we have come not only to dread but to expect. 

The country seems to be at an impasse. It finds itself in the midst of debates over gun control, whether or not teachers should be armed, and the security measures that should be taken at schools. Meanwhile, ten families and another American community descend into mourning over the violent, sudden, and wholly unnecessary loss of life at school—a place where it was once uncommon to imagine such a tragedy to occur. 

In March, the March for Our Lives demonstration took place in Washington, D.C., and all over the country schools staged walkouts to give youth a platform to advocate for greater gun control. Congress, however, has taken no action, choosing to focus far less on gun control and more on school security measures that include allowing teachers who want to carry guns to be armed on campus

While the gun control debate shows no signs of moving past the point of heated discourse, schools, students, and teachers continue to be targeted. It has become a story we are used to waking up to on the radio, seeing in our Twitter feeds, or reading in our newspapers, and that is not normal. 

The trouble is, while the story of school shootings often seem to be the same—with different dates, names, and faces, but the same theme of life's fragility—it is nearly impossible to clearly define a single cause for school shootings. Thus, there can be no single solution. 

Individually framing school shootings through the lens of mental health or gun control, the concept of a violence-saturated society, and media outlets sensationalizing stories all fail to capture the complexity of the issue. What can be done now to stop school shootings? What can be set in motion to ensure that students and teachers in the future won't have to hear screams from the radio or the TV or the classroom across the hall and wonder if they are next?