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The conversation regarding school safety cannot start and stop with guns and shootings.

Since 2018 began, at least 8 school shootings have occurred in the US involving injury or death. In the days since the most recent widely publicized shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, several conversations have erupted regarding U.S. school safety. Similar to other shootings, gun control has re-emerged in the mainstream discourse. As well, there are discussions regarding arming teachers and increasing militarization of U.S. public schools. For example, in Broward County, Florida where the shooting took place, the police have reportedly stated that sheriff’s deputies will carry rifles on school grounds going forward. But amidst the growing discourse surrounding violence and guns, one particular discussion about school safety has been erased: that US students have been under threat and are under threat everyday. Understandably it is a worrisome and frightening and grave situation when a school shooting occurs, but “school safety” is more than just about school shootings. And this hyperfocus on the state of US schools only when widely publicized events happen, obscures that schools have been unsafe and that teachers and students are constantly threatened and in dangerous situations. In particular, the conversation on increasing police presence in schools or further incorporating metal detectors and other scanners or arming teachers, ignores that many schools are already militarized and policed in this way. Many schools already have policies in place for metal detectors and drug-sniffing dogs, especially among schools with a greater concentration poor students and students of color. The National Center for Education Statistics notes that up to 24% of U.S. schools have random drug-sniffs by dogs and almost 9% of high schools have random metal detector scans.
Related: GUN VIOLENCE AND TOXIC MASCULINITY: WHAT HAPPENED IN FLORIDA IS NO ANOMALY

Our Detroit school is a fortress. Every door is locked from the outside and equipped with sensors. Leave it open too long and the alarm screeches through the hallway like a cat in heat.

When school shootings occur, as a school counselor, I spring into action. I prepare myself to have students come to my office for courageous conversations about gun violence. My job is to attempt to restore their confidence and normalcy; get their head back in the academic game. In Detroit, where I work, no one ever comes to me after a shooting — not even a parent phone call to ask, “what is your plan if someone shoots up the school?” Nothing. After the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida I decided to go to them. In the lunch room, I sat with my students and asked: “Did you hear about what happened in Florida.” They had. “Are you concerned about something like that happening here?” Their answer is a confident unanimous, “No.” My kids cavalierly mention, “Black people don’t go around shooting up places, all reckless, white people do that.” I reminded my students of The Charleston Massacre when Dylann Roof, a white supremacist terrorist killed nine black people in their church. So even if black people do not typically commit mass killings on average, we can be victims of them. “Oh, yeah, that was crazy, Mrs. Mohammed,” another student says, “but that was a church. Ain’t nobody getting up in here with no nonsense!” High School students aren’t confident about much, but my ad hoc focus group of black, Latinx, and Arab-American students are very confident about their safety in our school building on the Detroit’s west side. Every morning students arrive an hour to thirty minutes in their uniform before the first bell to wait in a line to pass through a metal detector, have their backpacks searched, and get patted down by security guards. It is just not students — every parent, guest, even the postman walks through those metal detectors, gets their photo taken, and is greeted by a security guard who escorts them to the main office, right by our deputized police officer’s desk.   Our Detroit school is a fortress. Every door is locked from the outside and equipped with sensors. Leave it open too long and the alarm screeches through the hallway like a cat in heat. All the windows have bars, and thick glass with wire mesh running through it. Shooting it out would be a waste. Only one of the metal six front doors can be opened without a pass-card or a key. And none of the side doors are ever unlocked. There are cameras at every intersection, and patrolling security guards. The main throughway doors have magnets which can be tripped by an alarm and instantly shut and lock, quarantine whatever part of the building you need it to. If there were a shooter, he would not be able to freely roam the building if that particular alarm was tripped. This isn’t The White House, this is inner city schooling.
Related: GUN VIOLENCE AND TOXIC MASCULINITY: WHAT HAPPENED IN FLORIDA IS NO ANOMALY

It is up to institutions of higher education to protect their most vulnerable students.

One of the greatest values of a college education is the opportunity to live, work, and study with people from completely different backgrounds. It exposes you to new ways of thinking, living, and opens your perspective beyond your own upbringing. When colleges take measures to properly orient students for this experience, meaningful dialogues and greater cultural awareness occurs. Too often, campuses fail to provide sustainable support and marginalized students are the ones who suffer the most. Such was the case at the University of Hartford in Connecticut, where a white freshman named Brianna Brochu created such a hostile living environment that her Black roommate, Chennel “Jazzy” Rowe, was forced to move out. As Rowe was leaving, she was made aware of social media posts where Brochu called her a “Jamaican Barbie” and bragged about contaminating her personal items with bodily fluids throughout the month and a half they’d been living together. It was then that Rowe went public in a Facebook Live video and demanded that Brochu be held responsible for her racist bullying and harassment. She accused the campus of attempting to sweep the incident under the rug by quietly arresting Brochu without alerting her. She also spoke of ongoing medical issues as a result of Brochu’s abuse and being forced to come out-of-pocket for health services on campus. Rowe later told local radio station WTIC that school officials threatened to remove her from campus for speaking about the incident publicly. It was only after Rowe’s video that Brochu was arrested by Hartford Police and expelled from campus. Brochu confessed to third-degree criminal mischief and second-degree breach of peace; both minor charges that carry a maximum sentence of six months each. Police then added a charge of intimidation based on bigotry or bias to Brochu’s case, a hate crime charge. Many argue that Brochu should be charged with attempted murder for essentially poisoning her then-roommate. The National Fair Housing Alliance issued a statement saying the harassment may be in violation of the Fair Housing Act.
Related: WHITE PEOPLE: STOP WEAPONIZING OUR EMOTIONS TO AVOID YOUR RACISM

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