The Sinister Fate of America’s School Shootings

Mariam Khan ‘24

The dream of a long-anticipated “return to normalcy” this school year for students across the nation has quickly shattered as September saw the highest number of school shootings in a given month since 1970 [1]. Just this year, from Houston, Texas to St. Louis, Missouri, thousands of high school students arrived at school in the morning, but one, two, or, sometimes, ten students, did not return home that afternoon. Just recently, in Arlington, Texas, 4 students were injured in a violent shooting that occurred after a simple classroom fight. [2] 


An eerie string of mass shootings this September and October foreshadow a sinister future for high school students. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, school shootings were already an enormous problem, garnering national attention and sparking debates over gun control legislation. However, levels seen in 2021 are unprecedented: 164 inactive shootings—those who do not intend to directly cause harm to students themselves— and 6 active shootings occurred on school grounds. [1] This disturbing finding comes as the American Academy of Child Psychology declared on October 19th that teen mental health levels constitute a national emergency [2]. Experts theorize that the rise in suicide attempts in the last few months is a result of isolation and fear due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With the mental health of American teenagers collectively worsening, the school shooting crisis is bound to worsen as well, as countless studies have shown the clear link between perpetrators’ serious and untreated mental illness with school shootings [5]. Aside from the devastating effect on students’ health and wellbeing, these traumatic events may also cause a loss in school hours. A highly populated high school in Naperville, Illinois has already faced 3 school shooting threats this school year. During two of these threats, students were sent home early; the other almost resulted in a complete school shutdown [6].


Even for students who were not directly involved in the shooting, witnessing gun violence in close proximity can have devastating effects that last a lifetime. Researchers find that students who witness these traumatic events are more prone to developing psychological issues directly after the event or chronic disorders later on in life [3]. One girl, who witnessed her coach being shot right in front of her eyes in the 2018 mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, still battles her mental illness as she continues mental health counseling to this day [4]. 


As these horrific scenes unfold around the nation, the question remains: what action needs to be taken moving forward? The clear link between mass shootings and mental health problems suggests that schools urgently need to strengthen their mental health services and improve the general happiness of their students. Often, teenagers resort to gun violence when they lack a person to talk to or depend on. According to the American Counseling Association, it is vital for schools and counselors alike to take action to stop this crisis, especially given that an outstanding number of perpetrators face either mental issues or issues in their household. [8] The most effective way to prevent school violence in the future would be to develop a foolproof helpline for students to fall back on. Since school shootings are often the result of months or years of divisive planning and orchestration, allowing students to receive help immediately may greatly limit the number of students forced into committing such acts of violence. [7].






[5] [6]