Tragedy and the Meaning of School Shootings

“”The phenomenon referred to as “”school shootings”” pertains mainly to those shootings where the school is deliberately chosen as the site of violence, the violence is perpetrated by a current or former student, and the targets are chosen symbolically or at random with the intention of causing as many deaths as possible”” (Travers, McDonagh & Elklit, 2018). One of the most recent concerns in education today is school safety protocols to prohibit an intruder. Over the past few decades, school shootings and safety have become one of the highest priorities when addressing school concerns.

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The random nature of these events provides a number of challenges for studying this phenomenon (Elsass, Schildkraut & Stafford, 2015). The biggest challenge when taking a closer look at school shootings and determining their prevalence is the lack of definition for the phenomenon.

The tragedy at Columbine High School in 1999 brought the issue of school shootings to the forefront of public awareness (Flannery, Modzeleski & Kretschmar 2013). This heinous attack committed by two teen boys left 13 people dead and wounding more than 20 others inside the high school. Dejectedly, the most recent school shooting at Majority Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on February 14, 2018 resulted in 17 students dead and 17 wounded. While multiple-homicide school shootings are rare events, they happen to significantly impact individuals, the school and the community (Flannery, Modzeleski & Kretschmar 2013). School shootings not only impact other schools but it impacts students as well. Schools are now required to take heightened security measures to ensure that students and staff members remain safe at all times. The purpose of this literature review is to determine the effects of school shootings and it impacts. The specific research question is: What impact do school shootings have on students and school safety protocols.

School Shootings

Mass school shootings is referenced when there are three or more shooting victims. They have not been reported to happen in any specific area; they range from poor to mid-class suburban areas (Flannery & Kretschmar, 2015).

A report generated from 2013-2015 identifies that Florida, Georgia and Texas had the highest numbers of incidents regarding school shootings in the United States. Most of the events (54.6%) occurred in K-12 schools and in metro areas 75.9% and were intentional shootings (66.2%) perpetrated by boys was at 99.3% (Kalesan, Lagast, Villarreal, Pino & Fagan, 2015).

Beginning in the mid-1990s in the U.S., school shootings have become characterized by many as a social problem. Each event is intentional, designated to cause numerous deaths, and is highly publicized particularly through the media (Elsass, Schildkraut & Stafford, 2015). A handful of school shootings are publicized however a vast amount is not. In 2018, there have been over 100 school shootings and the need for more safety protocols are constantly being reviewed (Haeney & Galletly 2018). According to Sky News, The Stoneman Douglas shooting that occurred in February of 2018 was the 18th gun incident at a school and it was among the 30th mass shooting in the country.

There are little research to support why school shootings occur, however there have been a commonality among school shooters in which they advertise it. School shooters tend to post their intentions on social media or journals (Flannery & Kretschmar, 2015). There have been little research to support that video games and even bullying leads to these attacks (Raitanen & Oksanen, 2018). This act of violence occurs when it is least expected. Even with safety measures such as assault weapon bands, metal detectors, a school safety officer-in most schools, a school shooting can still occur (Haeney & Galletly, 2018).

Effects on Student

The most common school shootings mainly do not ever really involve large numbers of victims but serve more ramifications far beyond just those who were directly involved (Louis-Phillippe & Dongwoo, 2016).

School violence is ever present and fear for safety affects not only students but also teachers, staff, and communities (Katsiyannis, Whitford & Ennis, 2018). Such violence plays a major problem around the world. The effects of school violence can possibly lead to division alongside mental and physical trauma. These incidents can affect students’ decision about whether to stay at their school, affect their cognitive skills, and influence their behavior at school (Louis-Phillippe & Dongwoo, 2016). Students directly involved or witnessing a school shooting tend to have post-traumatic stress disorder. They suffer from being able to disconnect from the event which has a long-term effect on them educationally and socially (Storm, Schultz, Wentzel & Dyb, 2016).

Deadly school shootings have a rather large impact on those directly involved in such an event and those that learn about the event. A survey conducted after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting occurred suggested that overall 57% of teens state that they are worried about the possibility of a school shooting taking place in their school (Katsiyannis, Whitford & Ennis, 2018).

According to Peterson & Silver, students expose to violence results in both a reduction in academic progress and increased disruption and unfocused behavior in the school/classroom setting. Students are becoming more aware of their surroundings when they are at school which heightens their sensitivity to normal procedural routines such as fire drills and other regular school safety protocols (Raitanen & Oksanen, 2018). Aside from injury and death related affects, this new wave of school shootings altered the “”norm”” for everyday student life. Students are now required to partake in lockdown drills which require students to assimilate behaviors in the event that an active shooter is on campus (Travers, McDonagh & Elklit, 2018).

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