14 December 2021
Shootings like the one that occurred on November 30 at Oxford High School in Michigan are not uncommon in the United States. The Oxford shooter killed four students and wounded seven others.
EducationWeek tracks school shootings. It has found 31 shootings this year that had at least one death. A Washington Post investigation found that more than 278,000 students have experienced gun violence at schools since the Columbine High School shooting in April 1999.
School officials, lawmakers and others are trying different ways to prevent school shootings or reduce the number of deaths. Many schools practice "active shooter drills," which are meant to prepare students and staff for a real event. Other schools place police officers in and around their buildings.
In Oxford, the parents of the shooter are being charged with a crime in connection with the killings.
Karen McDonald is the Oxford County lead prosecutor. She argues that James and Jennifer Crumbley, parents of the shooter Ethan Crumbley, could have prevented the attack.
"We should all be looking at the events that led up to that horrific event," McDonald said on American television. "And as a community, as a school, as a nation, talk about what we could have done different so that didn't happen."
On November 30, a teacher found a note written by Ethan with a drawing of a handgun and the message: "The thoughts won't stop. Help me." After a meeting with Crumbley and his parents, school officials thought he was not a risk to other students and could return to class. The parents also refused a request to take him home for the day.
Later that day, Crumbley opened fire on fellow students with a gun his father had given him four days earlier as a gift.
School officials in Oxford are also being investigated to see if their actions could have stopped the shooter. Two legal actions were brought against the Michigan school district Thursday for permitting the shooter to stay in school after he showed signs of very troubling behavior.
Gun control advocates hope the charges against the Crumbley parents will show ways to deal with other school shootings.
Shannon Watts is the founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, an organization that supports gun control measures. She wrote in The Washington Post that children and students should not be able to access guns. She believes the charges against the Crumbleys will force all gun-owning parents to consider additional safety measures.
Oxford High School had many safety measures in place. Watts wrote, "yet all of these measures weren't enough to stop a school shooting because the student still had access to a gun at home."
The organization Everytown for Gun Safety says 5.4 million children in the U.S. live in a home with a gun.
Active shooter drills
Active shooter drills are common in American schools. During the drills, students practice how to react if a shooter enters the school. Students are taught to lock the doors to the classroom, turn off the lights, sit on the ground, and be quiet.
Oxford County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said the drills "saved lives" at Oxford High.
A Washington Post report found that 4 million students went through active shooter drills in 2018. But critics say these drills can traumatize children.
David Riedman is with the National Center for Homeland Defense and Security. He studies school shootings. He told The Washington Post that the drills did save lives at Oxford, but he believes very realistic shooter drills are not needed.
Gun safety laws
Research has found that more than half of gun owners do not lock up their guns.
Some schools have started sending letters to parents to tell them how to safely keep a gun. One school system in Los Angeles requires parents to sign a notice about gun safety. The Clark County school system in Nevada does something similar.
Maddie Ahmadi is a student in Vermont who led an effort to get her school to send a letter home to parents about safely storing guns.
She told EducationWeek that it is an issue of safety, not politics.
"I'm not telling anyone to stop hunting and I'm not telling anyone to give away their gun; I'm telling them to securely store them so we can prevent tragedies like what happened in Oxford," she said.
I'm Dan Novak.
And I'm Caty Weaver.
Dan Novak wrote this story, with additional reporting from The Associated Press, EducationWeek and The Washington Post. Susan Shand was the editor.
Words in This Story
track — v. to follow and find especially by looking at evidence
drill — n. a physical or mental activity that is done repeatedly in order to learn something, become more skillful, etc.
prosecutor — n. a lawyer who represents the side in a court case that accuses a person of a crime and who tries to prove that the person is guilty
advocate — n. a person who argues for or supports a cause or policy
traumatize — v. to cause to become very upset in a way that often leads to serious emotional problems
tragedy — n. a very bad event that causes great sadness and often involves someone's death