The Pride of Our Nation Speak Out
By: Grace Molinaro FCHS
Ever since the devastating Parkland shooting rattled the nation to its core, students across the country have been asking the same questions: “Are we safe? Is our security adequate? What do I do if a shooter comes at me with an assault rifle?”
The adults don’t have answers. So students, whose opinions are so often not taken seriously, are rallying to make their own voices heard. After all, they are the ones on the front lines.
For many adult Americans, the Parkland shooting was yet another pedestal on which to champion their political platforms, raising cries about the Second Amendment and its various interpretations. But for students, the issue is not about politics-- is about our lives. On March 14th, Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) students joined thousands of their peers nationwide in a school walkout to honor the Parkland victims. The message was clear: More needs to be done to prevent school shootings.
The adult decision-makers in Fairfax County are attempting to tackle the problem by improving security measures. The school board considered increasing the number of protection officers in every middle and high school from one officer to three and the idea resonated with many people in the school community.
“Public officials have protection,” said Jorge Gonzalez, an administrator at Falls Church High School. “In banks, there are guards. Our kids are more valuable. That’s why we have SROs officers to protect them.”
But the idea has also drawn criticism from some students, parents, and personnel as either too much or not enough.
“People have called for armed officers, security scans, metal detectors, and barbed wire fences,” exclaimed a parent of three FCPS students. “That’s not a school; that’s a prison.”
“Adding two new officers to every school costs a lot of money, and it’s the school, the police department, or the County that has to pay for that,” explained Officer Nickolas, an FCPS School Resource Officer. “As for security, I think it would help to some degree, but a school shooting happens regardless of whether there’s one officer or three.”
Any time an incident happens, in any jurisdiction, the police and the law enforcement community hold debriefings to ensure their policies are up to date and that they are equipped and trained to handle incidents, according to Nickolas. Right now in Fairfax County, all police officers are due for active shooter training. “The problem is, things like crime and shootings trend,” said Nickolas. “New technology and issues come up, and it can take years for law enforcement to catch up.”
One thing that both students and adults agree on is that a healthy student-staff relationship is key. Schools with a strong community and friendly relations between students and staff provide a safe space for students to express concerns and seek help for mental health and dangerous situations. Teachers and staff must be vigilant and understanding in their response. “If you see something, say something,” insisted Gonzalez.
In the meantime, FCPS students are more fearful at school and wary of visitors. Many have initiated serious discussion about the issue with their parents and peers. On March 24, students from diverse political backgrounds across the country will again join their peers from other schools and gather in Washington, D.C. to protest gun policies.
Students are acutely aware that their generation is piloting the movement to end school shootings. “We’re scared, and we know that something is wrong,” said Annie Stamp, a sophomore at Falls Church High School. “Protests have made us feel like we have a voice. They have made us care more, act more, and be more informed about issues.”
Falls Church High School
7521 Jaguar Trail
Falls Church, VA 22044
(Students who reside on the north side of Annandale attend Falls Church High School)