Professional Articles

While gun violence is widely accepted as an unacceptable and devastating issue, though the causes and solutions are contested subjects. Additionally, gun policy is one of the most divisive issues where people hold strong opinions that span a wide range of perspectives. Beliefs on the reasons causing school shootings inform what solutions people find most practical. Emotion and research can unify or separate opinions—a complexity that is exacerbated by the diverse array of stakeholders in keeping schools safe.  

Hayley Wheeless expands her perspective as a teacher with her concerns as a mother of a seven-year-old daughter. A national board-certified teacher with over a decade of experience, she has worked as a school director and contributed to research at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Evie Blad is a staff writer for Education Week, who blends her areas of expertise in school culture, student well being, and school safety. Both are deeply concerned with issue and accept the problem, however their perspectives on the most effective solutions diverge.

Every day, 96 people die from gun violence in America, causing Wheeless to write “This infuriates me as an educator. As a parent, it terrifies me to my core” (Wheeless 2018). She examines the disconnect between who is placed with the responsibility of protecting schools children and who has the power to protect them—teachers and policy makers, respectively. Without addressing the problem as an epidemic (and one more impactful than virus epidemic outbreaks leading to precautionary school closures), a cure will not be found much less implemented. However, teachers have agency to prompt policy makers to make change. The voices of 3.2 million teachers could demand change if effectively organized. As people who are some of the staunchest supporters of creating safe schools for kids, not to mention their own safety, Wheeless (2018) argues their ideas must be elevated and enacted by officials. Stepping out of their classrooms to step up for safe schools would weight the importance of gun reform.

Unlike Wheeless, Blad (2018) mentions no role for organizing, jumping straight to what root issues must be tackled. While Wheeless focuses on the role and positionality of survivors and those impacted by gun violence, Blad writes about the gender and mental health trends of shooters. She emphasizes the role of student support and psychological assessments. Male students with mental health problems are the most common perpetrators of such acts of violence. Additionally, the United States Secret Service found 31 of the 37 school shooters notified another person of their intentions before their massacres—a staggering statistic that substantiates Blad’s emphasis on the importance of creating a robust anonymous reporting system (Blad 2018). Following Columbine in Colorado, a tip line was opened that is credited with preventing other school massacres. Blad (2018) asserts that expanding a reporting system would be part of a risk assessment protocol that would prevent future gun violence in schools.

It is interesting to see what population practitioners choose to focus on: the perpetrators or the communities impacted. By narrowing in on different aspects, the authors come to different solutions that would be most effective to make schools safer. However, their arguments are not mutually exclusive and both strategies could be implemented to tackle gun violence.