More than 400 students at Wood River High School pay tribute to the 21 lives lost and call attention to gun violence in schools on Wednesday to mark the one-year anniversary of the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. I participated in a demonstration to
“This is not political, it is not a protest,” said 11th grade student Maeve Coffelt, co-chair of Blaine County Amnesty International and organizer of the event. “Rather, this is an opportunity to honor the victims and spread awareness. It’s just about having empathy for what happened.”
Many of the students wore maroon, Rob’s school color.
Amnesty Group Co-President Jasmine Santacruz, a 12th grade student, said she felt she had to use her voice if she had the chance.
“We have the right to go to school without fear. That’s the right we should have. I don’t have to get up every morning and worry if my brothers can get home.”
“Walk-ins” are conducted during class, but are optional for students and focus on some key data. According to the FBI, since 2000, there have been 46 active shootings at K-12 schools, resulting in the deaths of 125 students and staff and more than 150 injuries.
Photos of Uvalde and other shooting victims will be plastered on the courtyard walls in an effort to humanize statistics, Coffelt said.
Coffelt said studies have shown that more than 80% of firearms used in school shooting competitions come from home, another family member’s home, or a friend’s home.
Along the courtyard were hung 125 locks representing all school shootings since 2002, plus 21 locks (one for each of Uvalde’s victims).
Mr. Santa Cruz also reiterated that the purpose of the demonstration was non-political.
“This is not about the Second Amendment,” she said. “It’s all about being responsible and keeping your gun safe.”
The high school’s assistant librarian Sheena Peron, from Uvalde, spoke at the demonstration.
“What if we could be part of the solution?” she cried through a loudspeaker. “What if change is needed? What if kindness is what the world needs?”
Perron said her first reaction when Coffelt and Santa Cruz approached her to talk to her because of her connection to Uvalde, was “too emotionally overwhelmed to talk.”
But then she saw an opportunity to make an impact and wanted to focus on what each individual feels they can do to make an impact, not politics.
“In a world where conflict and division dominate the headlines, acts of kindness can be a beacon of hope and a testament to our common humanity,” Perron said. “Kindness bridges gaps and promotes harmony. Small acts of kindness such as a warm smile, a welcoming hug, or a thoughtful word can make a huge difference in someone’s life. Choose to be a compassionate voice that drowns out the echoes of despair.”
Students Monica Sosa and Margaret Gill stand in a packed courtyard feeling safe in Wood River Valley and in their school, but also thinking about the possibility of a school shooting, not anywhere. He said he knew it could happen.
Gill also noted that it affects not only students but also educators, who also need to feel safe and supported.
“Teachers are a big part of that,” she said.
To provide accurate data and relevant information, Mr. Coffelt and Mr. Santa Cruz worked with School Resources Officer Morgan Barris.
For Barris, it’s personal.
Barris’ mother was sitting near Rep. Gabby Giffords when Giffords and 18 others were shot during a voter rally outside a grocery store in Tucson, Arizona, in 2011. Six people died. Barris didn’t know the killer well, but she went to school with him.
Barris’ wife was a first-grade teacher and his son was in kindergarten when the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, claimed the lives of 26 people, including 20 of them.
“It shook me to the core,” said the former Marine. “That’s when I decided to dedicate my life to understanding the phenomenon of targeted school violence.”
Over the next decade, Barris pursued a career in schools across the country, working as a trainer, consultant, and speaker, while pursuing a PhD. She said, “I haven’t studied anything but school violence.”
Although she had never envisioned a career in law enforcement before, Barris got a job with the Haley Police Department about a year ago, as an SRO for the Blaine County School District as an “opportunity to work hard.”
Barris, a father of an elementary and middle school student and spouse of an educator, said he was very concerned, but it also drives his work. He wants to keep himself and his entire family safe, but “we need to do it in an evidence-based, trauma-based manner.”
Through this approach, law enforcement agencies, schools, and their students can be trained to prepare for violent incidents without causing further emotional and psychological harm, he explained.
Barris acknowledged extreme polarization around guns. “What is not polarizing is firearm safekeeping and responsibility,” he says. “This is an opportunity to intervene…he could have avoided 80% of these events without access.”
Looking at the particularly poignant example of Uvalde, Barris said increased law enforcement training could convey data-driven information such as shooters are statistically less likely to have firearms training. “This gives law enforcement a chance to win the battle,” he said. ”
As for mass shootings that Americans are familiar with, Barris said shootings in the K-12 setting were “a very unique phenomenon” and decidedly different from other mass shootings. pointed out.
Hailey resident Jenny Peters took part in a demonstration to show her support for the students. A mother of her two young children, she said she worries every time she drops her children off at school.
“I think we’ve lost sight of what’s normal,” she says. “And what must we do to protect our children?”
Mr. Peters wanted to tell high school students that this is not their responsibility.
“It’s an adult’s responsibility to think about what to do and what to prioritize,” she says.
Regarding the work and resources the Blaine County School District has put into assessing and responding to risks, Barris said, “It’s truly amazing what Blaine County has done this year.” He explains that the approach is very comprehensive with a strong focus on prevention.
Coffelt said she usually feels very safe in her community, but admitted that she lives in states with more lenient gun laws.
“That threat is always there. I never felt 100 percent safe. I was always aware that it could happen,” she said.
And after 17 years of watching dozens of mass shooting reports, Santa Cruz remains an idealist, but also a pragmatist.
“You can’t avoid all shootings, but you can mitigate them,” she said. “There is so little we can do. But the little things we can do can make a big difference.”