MCPS gun violence assembly ineffective and demeaning


Graphic by Julianne Cruz

Students know that guns have no place in schools and should not be blamed for all gun-related incidents

Riona Sheikh, Opinions Editor

Guns are a lethal tool made for destruction. There is absolutely no reason a weapon should be near children, yet school shootings are on the rise. School is meant to be a haven for education and friendship, not a place for kindergarteners to practice active shooter drills. School shootings in America have gone up by 800% in the last decade; in reaction to the dismal circumstances surrounding gun violence in the U.S., Montgomery County Public Schools(MCPS) released a statement announcing a gun violence education system for all MCPS schools.

“The State’s Attorney’s Office was interested in responding to the incident at Magruder High School…one of their responses was to get in front of students in high school to talk about that concern,” Magnet Coordinator Joseph Jelen said. The effort to enhance gun education will take place through gun violence assemblies in high schools across Maryland. The first assembly for RM, intended to educate students on how future school shootings can be prevented, was held on the afternoon of Oct. 25, but left many students disappointed. “I was expecting new policies that would help students feel safer,” junior Abby Adissu said. 

While the assembly did touch on a few important topics, such as an anonymous tip service, much of the assembly was ridiculing and offensive. Students were repeatedly told that they did not take shootings seriously. “There would be kids saying… like, ‘Oh, I’m going to go shoot up the school tomorrow,’ and the kids didn’t take them seriously…we want you to take it seriously,” Lauren DiMarco, Director of Public Affairs for the State’s Attorney Office, said. This was incredibly demeaning towards students, who are the ones who are directly impacted by the fear of shootings. “When the assembly said we don’t take school shootings seriously, I almost laughed. It’s the adults who aren’t taking this seriously,” junior Zaida Bowsher said. 

The shooting at Magruder High School that took place in January was a prime talking point at the assembly. “The Magruder students, nobody called 911… they didn’t tell anyone! If you witness a shooting, do you leave and go back to your classroom and don’t say anything, and a kid is dying on the floor? You’ve got to call 911!,” DiMarco said. While she was busy blaming students, she neglected to mention that the security guards and staff who were also aware of the shooting did not call 911, and no fingers were pointed at them. “The expectations for students to be able to stay calm during a nightmare…and be capable of physically saving an injured student… feels ludicrous and incredibly suffocating,” Adissu said. Rather than pin the blame on students, MCPS should put more emphasis on training staff to deal with these threats and holding them accountable.

The assembly focused largely on promoting the ‘see something, say something’ policy, which entails students looking out for signs of potential violence from other students. Throughout the assembly, students were constantly reminded that it is their responsibility to report to authorities if they saw any students displaying warning signs. “We would like students to understand that you all have a role to play in your own safety,” DiMarco said. Putting so much pressure on students through a policy that has been ineffective in past events is completely unacceptable. “I think that the See Something, Say Something policy…could certainly have some problems,” Mr. Jelen said. 

Many children subject to school shootings are also not nearly old enough to be expected to call 911, let alone recognize all warning signs in their peers. Victims of the Uvalde school shooting were nine years old. Still, the police were called, just as advised in the MCPS gun assembly, and the utter uselessness of the law enforcement during the Uvalde tragedy was truly remarkable. There were over 400 police officers, and not one had made a move to save the children. “I was horrified to hear how parents were forced to save children [at Uvalde] because not even our police will save us if there is a shooter in our school,” Adissu said. Yet, according to the MCPS gun assembly, calling the police should end all our problems, and it is our fault for not calling the police if anything happens. This raises the question of whether it is the students’ faults for not preventing shootings – or perhaps, whether authorities are the ones to blame.

Teenagers have no power when it comes to ending school shootings, and yet the assembly neglected to mention any legislation that was done to combat the increase in gun violence. Legislators have power to change laws and increase gun restrictions, but the assembly’s over-emphasis on ‘see something, say something’ and ‘ghost guns’ completely ignored this point. “[The assembly took] away the blame from who is really at fault: legislators. We need to have better restrictions on who can own a gun and what kinds of guns can be purchased,” said Bowsher. The fact of the matter is that the ‘see something, say something’ policy isn’t going to end the school shootings and gun violence plaguing our nation; we need more legislation that places greater restrictions upon the purchasing and owning of guns. 

Students come to school to focus on their education, not on whether they are going to make it through the day without witnessing bloodshed. As students, we should be worried about typical highschool things like AP exams, college applications, and homecoming dates. While it’s always important to make your best effort to prevent violence, MCPS needs to do a better job of training staff and coming up with measures to eliminate violence that do not include blaming students.