Lack of communication leaves us in the dark

The morning of Nov. 1, when I got out of my car, I said goodbye to my mother and told her I loved her. I was scared that it would be the last time I would ever be able to say those words to her. 

All I knew was that someone had threatened to “shoot up” the school during one of the lunches, a rumor that had surfaced on social media the night before. Some people in my first period didn’t even know about the threat until they got to school, but by the end of third period, many students had called their parents to take them home. When I came to school, I was afraid, but what made me the most scared was the lack of information. 

While there was no information sent out to students, teachers and parents on the Cedar Shoals listserve received information about the threat the night before at 11:19 PM. At the time, school administration and law enforcement had not identified the source of the threat (it was made on an anonymous Instagram account), but they did say that they were implementing the safety protocols for incidents like this one. The next morning at 9:25 a.m., students received an email explaining that the school was not under any immediate threat and the student who made the threat had been apprehended. 

These emails did not do much to put my friends and me at ease, especially after already being at school for almost an hour. By the end of my first period, there were only four or five people left in my class. Throughout the day, the highest attendance in any of my classes was five people.

I appreciate that the school administration and law enforcement swiftly found the person who made the threat and determined that there was no immediate danger, but the issue remains that some students were not aware of the threat. The fact that high school teenagers were not sent the same email communication as parents and teachers to ensure that we were all informed is insulting. When there is an actual shooting threat, aside from faculty, we will be the ones in the life or death situation. 

A factor of the speedy determination of the credibility of the threat was parents who gathered information and shared it with the school. If information was shared with students who are admittedly more tech savvy than parents, we could help find out more about the situation and help the administration find out what they need to know.

I would understand sending information to parents first if this was elementary school, but this is high school. Teenagers are capable of forming their own thoughts and decisions. If there comes a  time when we go through another threat like this one, we should be allowed the decision of whether or not we feel comfortable going to school. Even if parents or administration believe that a student is not responsible or mature enough to make a decision like that, students should be given the chance to prove that they can be mature and responsible. No one starts out knowing the right decision or how to make it, the only way to learn is trial by fire, but all through my life I have been told that high school will be the place that I am supposed to be allowed to make decisions to practice for when I won’t be relying on my parents in the future when I am an adult.

It was not my choice to come to school on Nov. 1, with what was in my eyes an active school shooter threat. My parents were fairly certain that the threat was not credible and that my sister and I would be safe, so I was sent to school feeling that my own future had been taken from me. I wish that my peers and I had been given the chance to show responsibility in practicing control over our own lives that day.

The fact that some students did not know anything about the threat does not sit right with me. Why not directly inform high school students when parents are informed? Not everyone gets email notifications or checks their email regularly. Students, especially so, are more likely to get the information quicker when it is posted on social media such as Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Additionally, information is spread very quickly by people on social media, so it would decrease the percentage of people left in the dark. 

Days and scenarios when students wonder if a particular day will be their last are becoming too common. For some, it is their last day. There have been 356 victims of school shootings in the past 10 years. With such a disturbing number, the place where we are supposed to feel safe and learn is also the place where we worry for our safety

This isn’t even the first time I endured an experience like this. On Aug. 6, my third day of freshman year, Cedar Shoals went on hard lockdown. A robotic voice spoke over the intercom telling teachers to lock their doors and hide. It was later confirmed through a local news source that there was no immediate threat to the student body, but the sickening heart-pounding feeling of wondering whether I was about to die is one that I won’t forget. 

Both of these cases are times that I felt that I might be in danger. The lack of information and feeling of being thrust suddenly into a potentially hostile environment left me dazed, scared and angry. After the Aug. 6 incident, an email was not sent to students, so we either had to learn what happened from a local news source or our parents. 

At the beginning of the pandemic, a report published from the Journal of Behavioral Medicine noted that “2.1 million excess firearms were purchased in the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic — a 64.3% increase over expected volume.”

I worry about my safety when situations like these happen, and I worry about what school safety will be like in the future. If we don’t do something now, will anything change? When my little brother goes to school, I don’t want him to experience the same worries. I want him to learn in a safe environment and to not have to be in the dark about his safety.

Delia McElhannon

Sophomore Delia McElhannon is the Co-Photography Director for BluePrints Magazine. She has career interests in the literary arts, medicine, photography, and the sciences. McElhannon hopes to have more variety in the stories she writes this year and to expand her photography skills. Outside of academics, she likes to garden, read, and listen to music.

Avatar photo