How Have School Shootings Shaped Your Experience as a Student?

The massacre that took place on Tuesday at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, was at least the 188th mass shooting at a school in the United States since 1970.

More than 311,000 students have experienced gun violence at school since the Columbine High School shooting in 1999, according to an estimate by The Washington Post. Those who have not experienced it have still grown up as members of what a 2018 New York Times article called the “mass shooting generation.”

“No matter how rare school shootings are for the vast majority of students, they have grown up in a world so attuned to these threats that high schoolers are now more conversant in the language of lockdowns and code red drills than their parents,” Audra D. S. Burch, Patricia Mazzei and Jack Healy wrote in the article, titled “A ‘Mass Shooting Generation’ Cries Out for Change.”

What is it like to be a student in the shadow of this violence? How have repeated mass shootings affected your generation? How have they affected you?

Though the article was published in 2018 following the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., it remains resonant in the wake of several more American gun massacres. The authors wrote:

PARKLAND, Fla. — Delaney Tarr, a high school senior, cannot remember a time when she did not know about school shootings.

So when a fire alarm went off inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and teachers began screaming “Code red!” as confused students ran in and out of classrooms, Ms. Tarr, 17, knew what to do. Run to the safest place in the classroom — in this case, a closet packed with 19 students and their teacher.

“I’ve been told these protocols for years,” she said. “My sister is in middle school — she’s 12 — and in elementary school, she had to do code red drills.”

This is life for the children of the mass shooting generation. They were born into a world reshaped by the 1999 attack at Columbine High School in Colorado, and grew up practicing active shooter drills and huddling through lockdowns. They talked about threats and safety steps with their parents and teachers. With friends, they wondered darkly whether it could happen at their own school, and who might do it.

The authors then discussed how school shootings have affected students across the United States:

Spencer Collier, the police chief in Selma, Ala., was chatting recently with a group of high school students when they brought up mass shootings and pressed him about current trends and what law enforcement agencies were doing to address them. In Connecticut, Nathaniel Laske, a high school junior, said he had asked school administrators about the apparent absence of lockdown drills or a mass shooting plan in the event something happened during school theater productions.

“A lot of people aren’t willing to talk about it,” Mr. Laske said. “When you’re part of a school community it makes you much more inclined to want to prevent things.”

Soon after Amy Campbell-Oates, 16, heard about the Parkland shooting, she knew she wanted to try, in some small way, to influence the national discussion on gun violence. She and two friends organized a protest, made posters, and on Friday, they rallied with dozens of fellow students from South Broward High School.

They carried signs that read “It Could’ve Been Us,” and “Your Silence is Killing Us,” and “We Stand with Stoneman Douglas.” They chanted, their collective voices rising as cars honked in support.

Students, read the entire article, then tell us:

What is it like to be a student in an era of mass shootings and gun violence in schools? How have school shootings affected you? How have they shaped your experience as a student?

How have you felt in the wake of the Uvalde elementary school shooting? Did you talk about it with friends, parents or teachers? Do shootings like this one ever make you feel nervous about going to school?

Does your school conduct active-shooter drills or lockdown drills? If so, what are they like for you? Do they make you feel safer or more worried? Do you think these kinds of drills are a good idea?

“The repetition of horror numbs the mind,” Thomas Fuller wrote in a recent Times article on the growing toll of gun violence. Have you ever felt this way? Do you think that, as a country, the United States is growing numb to these attacks? Why or why not?

The authors of the 2018 Times article described how the Parkland shooting moved students around the country to become more involved in activism. Do you think something similar will happen in the wake of the shooting in Uvalde, Texas? Why or why not? How do you think school shootings are shaping the generation of students who are in school right now?

There is already debate about the many ways the nation could respond to this shooting: restricting access to semiautomatic weapons; arming teachers; and treating gun violence as a public health issue. What changes do you think would help protect students and teachers? Do you plan to speak out on certain policies? If so, how?

Do you think we are reaching a turning point, or do you think school shootings will continue to occur with disturbing regularity in the United States? What makes you feel that way?

Want more writing prompts? You can find all of our questions in our Student Opinion column. Teachers, check out this guide to learn how you can incorporate them into your classroom.

Students 13 and older in the United States and Britain, and 16 and older elsewhere, are invited to comment. All comments are moderated by the Learning Network staff, but please keep in mind that once your comment is accepted, it will be made public.