To Those Who Choose Fear

The increased anxiety and distress of not only COVID, but also school violence and disruptions has students at their wit’s end.

When we started back to school in August, I think many of us wished that we would be able to return to the pre-pandemic joys of school and leave the things that didn’t work well behind.

At the start of my senior year, all I wanted was to make it better than anyone could have ever imagined. I wanted to help plan the best Homecoming and most exciting DanceBlue, attend a packed Tailgate and Dinner Dance.

I wanted to make up for the time that we all lost.

And while I continue to do all of those things, I can’t help but feel silenced by those that choose to insight fear into both students and faculty at my school.

Over this past semester, these actions have only continued to spread.

I can’t help but feel silenced by those that choose to insight fear into both students and faculty at my school.

In the beginning, we thought that COVID-19 was going to be the largest threat to students. Many of us hoped that we could at least make it through the first semester without having to return to virtual learning.

Little did we know, the thing that caused the entire world to shut down would only be a minute issue compared to the daily disturbances that some students create.

From the first month of school, it has been a non-stop degradation of the public school system.

It began with the “Devious Licks” TikTok trend. For weeks only one bathroom would be open because attention-craving students vandalized and burglarized school property with an uncanny vendetta against the bathrooms.

It was sad to watch our hardworking custodial staff work tirelessly to do what they could to maintain the stolen property. Replacement after replacement, it is unfair that they had to fix the issues of so many thoughtless actions.

Shortly thereafter we lost a student to gun violence: a life that was taken too soon that left an everlasting hole in our school community.

In the month before Thanksgiving, we seemed to be wading through the ongoing storm.

The vandalism started to simmer and there weren’t as many issues arising on a daily basis. The fact that most of the bathrooms were open became a barometer of the school climate. It seemed to be easing up.

But what lay beyond Thanksgiving break was something not many of us were prepared for. Looking back, I’m not sure if it was the impending final exams or students’ internal limits reaching their capacity, but no matter what, it is a situation that I and a majority of other students had never witnessed in a school setting.

Violence slowly began terrorizing the halls.

The week of finals felt like we were in a series of movies: two people would begin to fight in the hallway, sometimes at pre-planned times and areas, and then people would rush to crowd around it.

Each one was videoed, shared, and posted for the world to see.

By Thursday, Dec. 16, it had become such a common occurrence that there were four fights in one day. One happened before classes even started for the day and the rest between lunches and class change.

I cannot imagine what our principals and teachers must have felt. Everywhere they turned, there seemed to be another fight to break up. We were all mentally exhausted.

And then that same night, parents across the nation were notified about the gun violence threat that had been made to all schools. However, there is no evidence that a TikTok trend to insight fear ever existed, but it’s not surprising that the rumors were so easily believed.

While my Mom always preaches about keeping an eye out and watching your surroundings, before we went to school she said: “Keep an eye out, and if you think something is going to happen you need to say something.”

But honestly, while all threats should be taken seriously, students and society alike have become somewhat tone-deaf to the subject matter of school safety.

In what world should parents have serious concerns that their own students could be held hostage or lost due to gun violence?

Like many students, I went to school on Friday. I had a final exam to take and the threat seemed too broad to really happen. Thankfully nothing was acted on, and we even left the building with zero fights.

I would most definitely argue that we would have had much more violence on the last day before winter break if Principal Betsy Rains had not gotten on the intercom and threatened expulsion to anyone that participated in or even encouraged or rallied around one.

I am not alone when I say I am tired. While it can be normal for staff to be tired of behavioral issues in a school setting, students much like me are pleading for the madness to end.

I don’t write this to criticize the schools or those that work in it but to directly speak to those that choose to insight fear.

Stop with the threats. Stop with the violence. Stop with the destruction.

Please seek help rather than pleasure in intimidating others.

Those of us who continue to have hope will not wave the white flag and let you destroy the walls around us.

Purposefully creating mass fear is beyond evil, and for that, I hope you find help. Help that will address your own fears instead of forcing them onto others.

The solutions to these issues aren’t in the hands of just one person or entity: each and every one of us must continuously hold each other accountable if we want to see a brighter tomorrow. We must find ways to better protect our students and ensure the resources are available for those that need them.

We cannot sit idly by while children are harming each other.

All of us, students and adults alike, must work to keep the physical safety of each other in check, but also to recognize the cry for help when it comes to mental well-being.

To those who choose fear, I ask that you carefully think about how your actions affect others and your own future. Please seek help rather than pleasure in intimidating others.

As a society, we are at a crossroads. We are in need of a change that will require effort from everyone.

But I have hope–hope that we will see light at the end of this dark tunnel we are currently traveling through.