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After More Shootings, Students Doubt Effects Of School Security

When high school students from Bend and Redmond had a forum about gun violence this week, most were skeptical of the steps taken by school districts to keep them safe.

“Our school is doing a lot to prevent gun violence. But they’re not doing the right things,” said Ava Rupp from Bend High.

  

Rupp was part of the Student Voices project, put together by The Source Weekly.

Just days after the Tree Of Life synagogue killings in Pittsburgh, and less than two weeks since a Bend man opened fire on his neighbors, 10 students shared writings, then swapped unscripted views on gun violence prevention. About 75 adults in the audience listened and asked questions.

The discussion lingered on the effectiveness of beefed up security measures in the Bend La-Pine School District, paid for through a bond passed in 2017. The district is adding cameras, intercoms and locking sets of doors in lobbies. A fence is going up around Bend High.

“Which makes us, as students, feel more trapped than protected,” said Heather Barclay of Bend High.  

Fellow student Isabel Merel remembered this year’s day of safety training with a shudder.

“I personally cried on that day, just because all my teachers were telling me how I could get out of the building in case of shooting, what to do, what to throw at the shooter," Merel said. "I don’t like having to know all of those things. I kind of just want to be in high school, and stress out about high school, not about guns."

Will Anderson of Redmond Proficiency Academy said these kinds of security measures play off fear “when in reality, the solutions they proposed aren’t really effective, if the threat is coming from inside the building."

The students echoed a call for districts to focus on making counseling services more accessible.

When forum moderator Hannah Williford asked how students reacted to specific threats to their campuses, Barclay remembered getting an email from the district about one.

“Then, I ran to my room and threw up. So, I didn’t go to school the next day. I think the scariest thing was waking up in the morning, going on Facebook and seeing one of my dear friends say, “If I die in a school shooting today, politicize my death immediately,” Barclay said.

What about arming teachers? An adult in the audience asked.

“Personally, that’s stupid,” replied Eduardo Gomez of Summit High. “I’ve been a troublemaker in the past, so I’ve had teachers yell at me. And you can see the problem.”

Gomez got a laugh, injecting a little levity into what was, at times, a tear-filled evening. But, one student wasn’t laughing at the idea of armed or dangerous teachers. Summit High’s Matthew Wakeman is 18, and a gun owner himself.

“I would never say a teacher should be forced to be armed, and treated like a security officer, and given a gun. But, maybe if a teacher owned a gun, or was a veteran, like so many are … I see no reason why a teacher should not be able to protect their students from a threat within the building,” Wakeman said.

He pointed to Sutherland Springs, Texas, where nearly one year ago, an intervenor shot the man who murdered 26 people in a church with an AR-15 style rifle.

The forum came less than two weeks since a man in Bend opened fire and killed one of his neighbors with an AR-15 style rifle, and without an immediately apparent motive. Several students suggested banning those kinds of firearms.

“I can’t vote yet, but I’ll be able to vote next election," said Bend High’s Ava Rupp. "I would like you guys to vote for common sense gun laws. There is no logical reason to own military grade weapons."

Will Anderson from Redmond asked the several elected officials in the room to advocate on his behalf: “By decreasing class sizes, by providing more resources and better wages for teachers, will help improve conditions on a wide array of issues, school shootings and otherwise."

<p>Source Weekly Editor Nicole Vulcan speaks with students Will Anderson and Isaac Cruz before they read their essays at the Student Voices event.</p>

Keely Damara

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Source Weekly Editor Nicole Vulcan speaks with students Will Anderson and Isaac Cruz before they read their essays at the Student Voices event.

Copyright 2018 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Emily Cureton Cook is OPB’s Central Oregon Bureau Chief. She's the former producer of the Jefferson Exchange on JPR and has contributed award-winning programming to Georgia Public Broadcasting. Emily is a graduate of the University of Texas in Austin where she earned degrees in history, studio art and Russian.