This article was written by Jennifer López, a junior at San Benito High School in Hollister. The article is part of BenitoLink's Junior Journalism Project which is partially funded by United Way of San Benito County.
López: In what ways have the recent school shootings affected you?
Joshua Radon, SBHS 11 AP English teacher- “It hits home because I’m a teacher, obviously. And these are high school kids and I’m a high school teacher. It makes me aware, again, of something that I know that could happen, in my place of work, to my students, or to myself.” Radon acknowledged how common these incidents are and how numb Americans have become to it.
Carlos Munoz , a SBHS senior- The incident made him "reflect on gun control and on ways to avoid guns."
Joeven Los Banos, a SBHS junior- “It made me feel very emotional. Seventeen students were killed [in Florida incident]- I mean that’s more than one.”
Elliot Ruiz, a SBHS junior- “It makes me feel less safe at school…think there’s been 17 other shootings this year (at time of interview). So I feel like, at some point in my school there will also be a shooting.”
Citlalli Ramirez, a junior at SBHS- “It was scary. Compared to other shootings, we don’t really- yeah we pay attention to them, but then slowly, we move on. And I feel like this one is making an impact.”
How prepared do you feel at San Benito High for incidents like these?
Teacher Radon- “No. no. I don’t- well, I’m kind of fatalistic about it, I don’t really think you can be prepared for situations like this. I think it's the sort of thing where you can do what you can do. We have trainings, we’re shown what to do. But, at the end of the day, I don’t know how effective it's going to be. In the moment it's hard to know what the effect is going to be. I believe that the school is doing everything they can to prepare us, but I don’t think anyone can be prepared to be shot at.”
Michael Schurig, SBHS Business and Marketing teacher- “I think we are better prepared than a lot of schools, and better prepared than the school in question. But I’m not sure what protocols they had. I mean, the fact that we have the PA system so that if someone pulled the fire alarm, the PA system would say. ‘No, that’s not a real fire’. So we’ve got some things to tell us when there’s not a real fire. We’ve got ways to protect our students. But there is still more to be done. So I think that we are getting there, but we’ve got to continue the process across the country.”
Deysi Serafin, SBHS junior- “Like the school says that we’re safe, but they never do anything about it because it never happened here.”
Citlalli Ramirez, SBHS junior- “Yeah, we have earthquake drills and fire drills, but I feel like we’re not really prepared for something that big.”
López: Do you think these issues with school shootings were rooted in how easily accessible weapons are in America?
Teacher Radon- “My view of it, personally, is that I’ve talked to people on both sides of the gun control issue- the debate about whether its guns that are the issue or not. And my sad belief right now is that people are too entrenched on their belief on either side to make change or compromise. Because people who feel very strongly one way or the other are so far apart. And there are so many of them. It’s kind of like they cancel each other out. And nothing can ever happen. I mean every single time there is a shooting, people will say they’re going to do something, but nothing ever gets done.”
Teacher Schurig- “No [to guns being an issue] because you look at other countries that have had issues, and whether it be a knife or whatever. Even in Columbine they were making pipe bombs on campus. And so, if they want to have violence, they’re going to have violence. I’m just saying it could happen, any type of violence could happen. And so it's not because of guns. Granted, some people have access that they shouldn't have. They’re heavily disturbed and shouldn't have guns. So, our checks should be better. The idea of introducing gun control is not going to help. All the guns are out there already. And then if you make it harder for the normal people to get them, then the only people who have them are the bad people. You know, so that's not the answer either. People find the way to violence no matter what, and that’s not the answer.”
SBHS Senior Munoz- “I think it's more of a society problem. The way I think about is, you know for example how that one guy who shot up- what, 17 kids? He had a problem with his parents and all that. People were looking at that and thinking, ‘Oh he was sick in the head’, but no; it was a societal problem. You know, maybe he was angry against the world, and society pressured him into being like that.”
SBHS Junior Los Banos- “I think that a lot of people think guns are so easy to get. And I think they should make laws that makes it so that gun control is implemented with age differences. Like age should make a difference with getting guns.”
López: What do you think about the new camp “funnel” design? (San Benito High has three campuses: New Campus (Math and Science departments), Main Campus (English and electives department), and Language Campus (foreign language and history department). New Camp is built in a way where the whole campus is gated, and there is only one exit. So this means that if a predator was on campus, all students on new camp (easily a couple hundred) would have to funnel out through that one exit, making it a good time for the predators to target a big group of students.
Teacher Schurig- “Actually, it's the exact opposite though. Its locked, so a stranger can’t get on to New Camp. And just like, we have all of our gates here, on the Main Campus now. I was just there [on New Camp] because I was teaching summer school two summers ago. And some drunk came off the street during night summer school, and came onto campus. And that's why I would tell the students, that's why they put the gates in. Not to keep you guys in, but to keep the other people out. And that’s what we’re trying to do. And so, you know, we have so many ways to get on campus [on Main Camp]. And that’s why we always do summer school on New Campus because it is the safest campus. Because there’s only one way in, one way out. We’re locked in during the day, that way nobody can come on campus during class, and that's what its designed for. It's not designed as an escape off of campus. That's what we want to do in case of fire. You know, but if you’re in a shooting, you’re locked in and those gates are locked and the shooter can’t get onto the campus.That’s what it's designed for.”
López: What if a student is the one with a gun, which they are in some school cases?
Teacher Shurig- “Well first off, that's a good question. But in that case, we’ve got to remind ourselves, the shooter in Florida was not a student. He came off the street. He had been gone, suspended from school several years ago.You know, and there was a lot of other issues. Yeah, it's possible for someone to sneak in a gun. You know, maybe a handgun, or even a rifle in a baseball bag. Yeah, they could do that. But in that case, you’re still safer in a locked classroom. That classroom is in danger, if he/she happens to be in that classroom. But in the other classrooms, you just need to make sure- you know that’s why we do the practices. So if there is another shooter out on campus. We’re all locked and barricaded, so that they can’t come in there and harm you. You can’t be one hundred percent safe, we just try to do the best we can”
Valeria Mariano, SBHS junior- “So we were talking about this. Drive by (shootings). You know, someone doesn't necessarily have to stop and get off. Like, if you think about it, you can look at the schedule at school. And you can know if the students are on break or on lunch. And somebody can just pass by and start shooting a bunch of people. Because we all hang out that way, and all walk by everywhere. I feel like it's easier for somebody to come to campus. Because there's the situation that there's always somebody walking by on the crosswalk. So like, if I was the shooter, not saying that I am, but like if I had the mentality, and knew how this worked, I would check to see what time students are out during lunch or when they are crossing so that there could be like a drive by.”
“And then when the fire alarm is pulled, you’re not thinking about someone coming on with a gun, you’re worrying about where the fire is at, and where to run to. You know what I mean? Like the other day, we were walking. I had Spanish, and the fire alarm went off. And I didn't know what to do. If I should- you know what way I should go [because of the way Nikolas Cruz carried out the shooting in Florida, pulling the fire alarm so he could target students]?"
López: What do you think about giving teachers guns?
Vicente Ramirez, SBHS Avid and World Studies teacher- “I strongly disagree with it. Because my idea of being an educator is not carrying a gun. My idea of an educator is saving lives, in terms of getting students to reroute to the right path. Whether its college or the army. But for me to say, ‘yeah, I’m going to carry a gun’. Is completely unprofessional. And completely out of tune with why I became a teacher. If I wanted to be a professional gun carrier, I wouldn't have selected a career in education. Also, I’ve read research that said carrying a gun would not prevent a shooter. They (predators) come in at random, and just start shooting people, specifically students. So, it would be a huge scene of chaos. That a teacher carries a gun, doesn’t mean that they’re going to be able to prevent a shooting. The other thing is that, a teacher may or may not know what to do in that situation. So no (to teachers with guns), for those reasons and political reasons as well. And they may have a genuine concern [teachers who want to carry guns], they might have a genuine belief that fighting with a gun will help prevent a shooting. But you could have a deadly shoot-out (If both a teacher and a predator had a gun), possibly even killing innocent bystanders. So we don’t know how the scenario would play out, but what I can say though, is that, personally, I would not be okay with my colleagues carrying a gun. I wouldn’t. It would completely contradict why we became teachers.”
Teacher Radon- “No. That is the worst idea that anyone has come up with. I don’t understand it. Teachers are teachers. Like I went to school to become a teacher. Not to shoot people. It like, on the other hand, I want my students to be safe. But I’m the last person to sort of be capable. And I think people suffer from Hero Derangement Syndrome where they think that in the moment, they’re going to be some calm, cool, collected person, as someone is rapidly firing with their Air-15 into their classroom. They’re going to be like, poached up and get the kill shot, because they’ve been playing Call of Duty or something like that. Its like they think they’re going to be the hero. To me it's like, if they put more guns in the classroom, yikes. Think about the situation where there was a shooting, I can't remember which one, as I said before they all run together. Where literally a day after, a school security guard left his gun in the bathroom and a kid got it. That’s what I could see happening a lot, is them being displaced. Or teachers could act irrationally, I mean we don’t want teachers snapping and pulling out a gun. I Don't know, I don't trust us to have guns. That’s my personal feeling. I’ll be really honest, if they required us to carry guns, I would just retire from teaching and do something else. I'm not going to be teacher if that's my requirement. That's not what I went to school for.”
Teacher Schurig- “Ironically, I thought about that and at one point I was against it. But I think if you get a few teachers, because I look at Mr.Schleeter [9th and 10th grade Advanced English teacher] who is in martial arts and how his skill, when he happened to be around major fights and was able to break things up by grabbing them a certain way, yo now, he really knows all that stuff. He’s been lifted up, elevated, and recognized for that over the years. But if you have a few, maybe not everybody, but some trained teachers with guns, it makes me open to the idea. I’m not saying ‘yeah, let's make it happen’. I’m just open to the idea. Because anything you do to increase the presence of support. And if the shooter knew that there was more than the resource officer he had to worry about, it will certainly make the shooter think twice.”
SBHS Junior Mariano- “I feel like teachers should be able to learn how to defend themselves. Like Schleeter has a martial arts arts thing. I’m not saying every teacher should have a gun. They could be having a bad day and want to shoot everybody. So like I know that in like Oklahoma a teacher had a gun and fired at a window because he was angry. Or what if they're having a mental breakdown and instead kill themselves? Also a lot of determined students know how to work locks with bobby pins or credit cards or quarters, students could take the gun out.”
SBHS student Sonya Hervey added, “There's way too much risks with that."
About the BenitoLink Junior Journalism Project- BenitoLink is interested in hearing from community members and invites young (and old) writers and photographers to give journalism a try and attmept to communicate a story that matters to them. This is the first year of the Junior Journalism Project and BenitoLink thanks United Way of San Benito County for the support they have given this endeavor.
Jennifer López is a junior at San Benito High School. She approached BenitoLink through an email and wrote, "I had Mr.Breen (SBHS) as a teacher my freshman year for intro to tech writing, and lately I've realized that I enjoyed doing the work for his class, which included a lot of doing interviews, and covering stories, and taking photos. All of those parts of the story-making process, I enjoyed." Jennifer did a wonderful job on this campus safety story and we hope she continues with her interest in asking tough questions and developing journalism skills.
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