These places are littered with candles, flowers and memorials for the victims of some of the largest mass shootings since 2016.
It’s important to identify what a mass shooting is. For the purpose of this article, we will use the Stanford Library’s definition of a mass shooting meaning there must be “three or more shooting victims (not necessarily fatalities), not including the shooter. The shooting must not be identifiably gang, drug, or organized crime related.”
Two weeks before Northwest started classes, the country witnessed two large scale mass shootings within two days of each other in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.
These attacks have turned a time meant for new beginnings in school into a knot of fear for students and parents, wondering if their child’s fate lies in scholarly success or an early grave.
While these tragedies seem to be far away from Maryville, Missouri, their impact can still be felt. The question of “what if it happens here?” is still prevalent.
For father and Maryville High School Resource Officer Ian Meyers, safety for his children is paramount.
“I have kids that go to school in this town,” Meyers said. “I would absolutely want them to be safe at school.”
Mass acts of violence have spurred schools, such as Maryville High School, into action. These actions are both preventative measures and quality preparations in case a mass shooting occurs.
While Meyers doesn’t think mass shootings are affecting how people view schools, he does think it impacts educators and staff more than others.
“It definitely changes how we prepare,” Meyers said. “It changes how we talk to each other, be it a work day or before the school year starts.”
Part of Meyers’ duties include training teachers for emergencies like active shooters.
“It impacts how they go into the school as training goes,” Meyers said. “I just recently had the opportunity to conduct several active shooter trainings that were building-specific.”
Principal Thomas Alvarez said it requires a shift in mentality for school officials.
“(Mass shootings) causes teachers and administrators to think about the topic because it’s not necessarily why anyone goes into being a teacher,” Alvarez said. “Our first goal is to keep kids safe. Our teachers are having to think about things in ways they didn’t before.”
Mass shootings in schools are not a new concept. According to Vox, there have been roughly 2,181 mass shootings since Sandy Hook Elementary school. Many schools have taken stronger security measures to protect students such as security cameras, buzz-in systems and security officers.
There is also a fiscal impact of mass shootings in schools. According to research from Harvard, there is more than a $1.5 billion shift across the country as schools move more money into security projects, and parents are moving their children from public to private schools.
With public education funding often being one of the first things to take a financial hit, finding ways to resource the need for security requires knowing which dotted line to sign.
“We’ve been fortunate in Maryville,” Alvarez said. “I don’t know if funds have necessarily been taken away from the kids but we have financially added things to the buildings for safety whether that be the buzz ins at the door, video cameras or allotted trainings. Schools are funded differently and those are considered capital improvements, so no money was taken away from teachers.”
Meyers believes the first step to preventing a school shooting is an open dialogue with students.
“We’ve talked about having assemblies and not really doing drills, but more of having an assembly to talk about what basic steps they should take in case, God forbid, they feel like their life is in danger,” Meyers said.
While 2018 was the deadliest year for school shootings, according to the BBC, Maryville Public School officials want the community to know they are trying their best.
“We do care,” Meyers said. “We’re trying to get ahead of this thing. It’s not to say it’s not going to happen here. Again, God forbid anything like that ever happen here, but we are making conservative efforts to keep our kiddos safe at school.”
It’s important for schools to be a safe place where students can learn without fear. Even though universities function differently than high schools, the idea is the same.
The University Police Department does offer storage lockers for students to keep their firearms and provide self-defense training.
UPD Officer Kristina Martinez said the procedure to have a gun stored at UPD is strict.
After filling out the proper paperwork if a student wants to check their gun out of the locker they must show proper I.D., a valid reason to check it out and an estimated time they will be back. During this process officers make sure the student isn’t intoxicated, angry or present as a threat to themselves or other students.
“We also keep track of which guns aren’t currently in their lockers,” Martinez said. “If an issue pops up, we can know what registered guns with their lockers are out and about. The goal is to keep everyone safe.”
While it’s impossible to predict when a mass shooting occurs, schools are taking preventive measures to ensure education and safety are top priority.