In recent years, issues like mental health, eating disorders, and cyberbullying were some of the most prominent concerns for high school students and their parents. However, a recent survey found that a massive 75% of Gen Z teens (age 15-21) felt that mass shootings were a “significant source of stress.”
With 254 shootings occurring in the United States between 2013 and 2017 alone, school shootings are much more commonplace, posing a bigger threat to high school students. Over 1/3 of school-aged children experience anxiety stemming from the developing norm of school shooting drills. Many kids lie awake at night with the fear that their school could be next.
Charlotte Manno, the director of the Early Childhood Lab at the University of Kentucky, argues that the nature of the drills alone can contribute to a student’s stress. “Labeling drills — or telling children a bad guy is in the school, or someone is trying to kill us or shoot us — can be scary for children and cause [even more] stress and anxiety.”
Such anxiety sparked a desire among parents and students to increase security in schools. Currently, around 28 states have policies that allow school security officials to carry firearms. Starting in 2017, the National Association of School Psychologists began favoring an “options-based plan” instead of lockdowns, encouraging officials to engage in actions such as running, hiding, or fighting, that best suits their needs in a particular situation.
Jefferson County Public Schools, for example, recently implemented the ALICE program – “Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter Evacuate” – which encourages faculty and older students to take action, such as throwing textbooks at the intruder if necessary.
Parents, however, are angry that such precautions need to be taken in the first place. Stephanie Boyd, a mother of two young children, stated “kids shouldn’t [have to] experience violence. We’ve…taken their innocence from them too early.”
Thankfully, teens are becoming increasingly proactive in assessing their problems and needs. Arthur Evans, CEO of the American Psychological Association, says “this generation may be more tuned in to recognizing issues with their mental health than older generations.”
Considering 75% of Generation Z-ers surveyed indicated that they “felt hopeful about the future,” it seems we are headed in the right direction towards leadership, advocacy, and change.
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