San Jose students are taking matters into their own hands by organizing a walkout to protest the increasing gun violence in their schools, as reported by NBC Bay Area. The protest, led by Willow Glen High School students, comes amid a string of threats and gun incidents happening in schools throughout the San Jose Unified School District.
Feelings of insecurity ran high during a San Jose Unified School District (SJUSD) board meeting on Thursday, just one day before the protest. The meeting saw hundreds of parents, students, and teachers gathering to express their concerns about school safety. One student, Gavin Rust, shared his thoughts during the meeting, saying, "I feel somewhat safe in the sense that I know what to do if someone decides to make my school a graveyard. But I don't feel safe in the sense of our response at the district level."
This escalating concern can be traced back to recent incidents involving students bringing loaded firearms to school. The San Francisco Chronicle reported the arrest of a Willow Glen High School student found with a loaded ghost gun, a type of firearm stripped of identifying information. Weeks earlier, another student was detained for carrying a loaded gun on campus at Hoover Middle School.
Those who attended Thursday's board meeting demanded an improved response plan, mental health support for students in the aftermath of such incidents, and better communication with parents during critical events. In response, the district issued a statement confirming that they have protocols in place to address threats and ensure the safety of students and staff. Additionally, the statement acknowledged the anxiety brought about by inaccurate information on social media and the increase in gun violence both locally and nationally.
It's worth noting that this growing concern isn't limited to San Jose. A PBS NewsHour/NPR/Marist poll found that four in 10 Americans believe their local schools are not safe from gun violence. This sentiment has risen by 10 percentage points since February 2019, one year after the Parkland, Florida school shooting. Furthermore, concern is especially high in the South, where gun laws are generally less restrictive compared to the Northeast and Midwest.
Interestingly, the poll also revealed that gun violence is increasingly affecting American families directly. Half of the parents with children under 18 reported knowing someone who has experienced gun violence. The issue has reached a point where, according to Pew Research Center, the United States is the only developed nation where gun violence is the leading cause of death for children and teenagers, even surpassing motor vehicle accidents.
The number of mass shootings in the country also shows a troubling trend. So far in 2023, there have been about 650 mass shootings tracked by the Gun Violence Archive, nearly catching up to the entire previous year's total of 690 mass shootings. These alarming figures highlight the urgent need for effective action and policies to address the issue.
In the meantime, students like those from Willow Glen High School are taking responsibility for their own safety by protesting and demanding change in the way threats are handled.