On Tuesday a 15-year-old student shot another student in the hall of Erie High School in Pennsylvania. School violence is on the rise, and after this incident, teachers are threatening to return to remote learning if security measures are not heightened. Virtual schooling became popular during the pandemic. It was marketed as a “safe” way to learn. This Erie school shooting has left many wondering, is this really the best way to handle the situation?
The suspect in question turned himself into police on Wednesday and the victim was in stable condition. It does seem to be an isolated incident, but even so, other situations like the Erie school shooting have increased. This has raised many concerns for parents, students, teachers, and other school staff. The Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA), which includes some 860 members of the Erie Education Association, is now refusing to return to the building for classes until metal detectors and other weapons detection devices are put in place. In addition, they are demanding fully functioning locks on all the doors, school-funded communications devices like walkie-talkies or phones, and increased security patrols. Lastly, teachers are asking that the Erie School District adopt a no cell phone policy for students that will be strongly enforced, even going so far as to allocate a locker specifically for teachers to place students’ phones.
This last detail is not likely to appease parents who are often grateful to have a direct line of communication with their child during a situation like the Erie school shooting. Many feel it is hypocritical to expect the district to provide walkie-talkies or phones for teachers while implementing a new no-personal cell phone policy for students. Plenty of schools have such policies, just as many districts across the country have used metal detectors and other weapons detection methods for years, yet shutting down a school for this purpose as if a school shooting is a virus is a new tactic.
Students across the nation are already suffering the long-term effects of lockdowns. Many have developed severe mental health issues and communications problems. Add in the fact that schools are now teaching division and discrimination through Critical Race Theory or culturally responsive teaching, or whatever biased ideologies some extremest educators decide to press in the classroom, tensions between students are growing higher than ever. It’s almost as if teaching students to judge each other based on their identity isn’t actually making them better future leaders, but is tearing them apart and leading them to desperation — which often leads to mental breakdowns and acts of violence. So using the Erie school shooting as a way to return to destructive lockdowns and further harm the learning process isn’t likely to prevent violence, if anything it will merely allow schools to ignore it.
Parents are responding and they all have something different to say, but many of them hold the same idea: the community needs to support the teachers and ensure that a safe learning environment is made to get the kids back to in-person learning. Some have implied that it is the school board, in particular, that has prevented that. Whether the Erie High School shooting was an isolated incident or not, parents and teachers seem to want the same thing: a safe place for children to learn. How that will be achieved is contingent upon the district and teachers working together.