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Keeping the conversation going: lockdowns

An alert covers the screen and a campus-wide lockdown drill commences  or at least that’s what was supposed to happen. As powerpoint presentations were interrupted with alerts on Tuesday, Oct. 9, professors quickly hit the ‘acknowledge’ button on their screens and continued with their lessons. Students were left with the question: Is that it? Many classrooms didn’t evacuate, few bothered sharing the video provided by University Police and hardly any held a conversation addressing the message on the screen. Last year there were 346 mass shootings in the U.S., which led to 437 deaths and 1,802 injuries, according to an article by Business Insider. These acts of violence are becoming increasingly prevalent on college campuses. While they are difficult to talk about, the conversation still must be had. When I was in grade school, teachers said lockdown drills were just routine, something required by the state. We would then gather in the corner of the room and wait the required time, just to turn the lights back on and continue with our day. This is far too similar to how we deal with the news of real life mass shootings today. Recently, a high school campus in Parkland, Florida experienced such a tragedy when a heavily-armed man opened fire, killing 17 people and injuring many others. This attack started a new dialogue that quickly evolved into the #NeverAgain social media movement, which centers on a conversation about gun reform. Covering the span of all 50 states, more than 800 “March for Our Lives” protests took place, sparked by public outrage. Protests ensued across Western’s campus and throughout Bellingham too. Both locally and nationally, the “lockdown generation” had endured enough. And for some students at Western, this issue hits home. Last year, a student at Freeman High School, located in Rockford, Washington fatally shot a classmate and injured three others when he opened fire. The attacker later told officials he obtained the weapons he used from his father’s gun safe. Freeman High is only a six-hour drive from Bellingham. Freeman graduates go to Western.   When situations like these occur we march, preach and advocate for change. But for many of us, without being directly affected by them, it’s easy to move on with our everyday tasks and responsibilities within a week. We don’t even find the time in our busy schedules to drill our own safety procedures. In 2016, 90 percent of public schools had written plans for responding to school shootings, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Additionally, 70 percent of those schools actually ran drills with students. Some drills involve running out of the building to safe ground or staying sheltered and hiding, while others encourage students to fight back. Because it is difficult to predict where or how a mass shooting may occur, it is recommended that campuses practice what is known as A.L.I.C.E.: Alert, lockdown, inform, counter, evacuate. Western’s Central Health and Safety Committee recommends at least one lockdown drill annually along with other emergency drills to be prepared in the event of an earthquake or a fire. But earthquakes are natural disasters and fires are accidental more often than not. Nothing is natural, accidental or expected about the terrifying chance of a violent individual attacking our campus. So, why are we treating these drills the same way? When campus-wide test alerts are administered, it’s important to take them seriously. We need to not only acknowledge the reality that this could happen to us, but hold collaborative conversations surrounding the topic in classrooms and give students a chance to express their feelings and ideas. As a school, we should strive to ensure the safety of our students. In this case, that means acknowledging that events like these aren’t just news stories, they’re people’s lives- and they could be our lives too.   The editorial board is composed of Alyssa Bruce, Julia Furukawa and Ray Garcia.

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