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The Students' Perspective On Gun Violence In Schools


More school shootings happen in any given year than make headlines. This year, from college campuses to preschools, there have been more than 60 gun incidents. That means a situation where a gun has been fired on school grounds. Youth Radio's Nila Venkat reports on what that means for students.

NILA VENKAT, BYLINE: At the beginning of this school year, a football game at Kennedy High School in Richmond, Calif., was interrupted by gunshots only 20 yards away from the field.

MOISES GARCIA: Oh, yeah. The game was in full effect. We were on the sideline. I was playing - and started shooting, busting.

VENKAT: At a recent practice, teen football player Moises Garcia describes his experience.

GARCIA: Everybody just ran from the stands outside. Everybody threw themselves on the ground on the field. It's kind of amazing that nobody got hit 'cause they were shooting this way.

VENKAT: The incident at Kennedy wasn't a mass event. So unless you live near there, you probably never even heard about it. But school shootings keep happening. And for kids my age, we've spent our entire lives thinking about school shootings.

GARRISON PENNINGTON: Yeah. The first one I really heard about was Sandy Hook.

VENKAT: That's Garrison Pennington from Albany, Calif. He was born in 1999, the same year that two teens at Columbine High School went on a shooting spree and the nation woke up to the reality of gun violence on campuses. That means for today's teens, in addition to fire and earthquake drills in school, we practice lockdowns.

PENNINGTON: At my school, they started doing this new system where all the teachers have a necklace that they wear where they can trigger a lockdown. And one day in the first week of school, there were three false alarms, and it just kind of messed people up.

VENKAT: The first lockdown I remember was in third grade. At first, it was exciting, like we were playing hide-and-seek. But when the kid beside me explained that this was practice for if a bad man wants to hurt us, I felt sick to my stomach. As I grew older, lockdown drills grew more frequent and so did the school shootings I heard on the news. has been tracking shootings on school campuses, meaning every time a gun is fired at a school. Ted Alcorn is the research director.

TED ALCORN: While this is a range of types of incidents, they all shatter the sense of tranquility and safety that is a necessity for education and fostering of youth and is a nightmare for families who believe that their children have gone to school to learn and to be protected there.

VENKAT: Since 2013, there have been more than 160 school shootings according to Everytown's records. This year alone, their list includes a middle school in Merced, less than two hours away from my house, a high school in Paradise, Texas, even a preschool in Everglade City, Fla. Seeing the names of the cities on a page together made me feel even more deeply that school shootings can happen anywhere.

ANTHONY DAVIS: I remember I was in class. No one really knew that someone had shot themselves.

VENKAT: That's 17-year-old Anthony Davis. He's a student at Grady High School in Atlanta. In 2013, a student brought a gun to school and accidentally shot herself in the leg.

DAVIS: We didn't hear the gunshot, but the teachers, all of a sudden, just didn't let anybody out of their seats. No one could go to the restroom. Everybody was sitting, looking around, asking what was going on.

VENKAT: For kids who've been through school shootings, even years later, it's still hard to forget. This year, there was another incident near the school. Like the shooting in Richmond, it was also during a football game.

DAVIS: We had little kids there. So in my mind, the panic was for them as well as our lives.

VENKAT: No school wants to be associated with a shooting. Many of the school administrators we contacted didn't call us back or declined to comment for this story, like they just wanted to move on and focus on what school is meant to be about - education. But in an era where the next campus shooting may only be days away, moving on is not that easy. For NPR News, I'm Nila Venkat.

SIEGEL: That story was produced by Youth Radio. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.