The Lansing Community is implementing new ways to promote safety within their school districts.
With recent headlines involving mass school shootings and gun violence, students, parents and faculty members would like to see changes within their communities.
Ingham County Sheriff Scott Wriggelsworth said Lansing is taking a stand on gun violence to promote a safer community for children.
“So one of the things we instituted after the Parkland shooting in Florida is the ‘Sheriff Safer School Initiative’,” said Wriggelsworth. “What that really revolves around is having our deputies carve out an hour or two out of their workweek to spend in a school that they’re assigned. In the jurisdictions where we police, we had 19 different school buildings. So we went around and assigned officers to different buildings.”
Sheriff Wriggelsworth explained that during this initiative, deputies are there to have an armed law enforcement officer within the school in case an event were to take place.
“Not always in the school but we also sit in the parking lot, “Hey, I’ll be outside.” God forbid anything happens and then we just go from there,” Wriggelsworth said. “I wish we didn’t have to do this, but unfortunately it’s the world we live in.”
Police Chief of the Lansing Police Department, Michael Yankowski, also said headlines involving gun violence and school safety have made his department act differently.
“Ever since the Columbine School incident, the Lansing Police Department has been adapting to respond to these terrifying incidents. We also know that when new incidents happen around the country that the news of them creates anxiety for students, staff and parents,” Yankowski said. “The Lansing Police Department recognizes that this happens and we become more visible at our schools during these times. We want everyone to know we are watching over our students and there to keep them safe.”
Local law enforcement also said they are in a constant state of learning and evolving to respond to such incidents that may they occur.
A parents’ concern
Since the beginning of the year, there were about 18 school shootings in the United States. On average, at least three school shootings take place every week in the country.
A number of parents at the Parent Teacher Conference held on April 19 at the Gardner Middle School in Lansing said that they fear for their children’s safety every day now when dropping them off at school, wondering if their school is another target.
“As a parent, I desire for educators and administrators in school building to assure my child that they will do everything to protect them,” said parent Terra Watson who is also an employee of the Lansing School Districts. “When I see students in areas where they’re not supposed to be, not only as a parent do I react, but as someone who is responsible for their safety.”
How do local students, the ones most impacted, feel about their level of safety?
“Yeah, I do get scared from what I’ve seen on TV because it can happen at any moment and it can happen to my peers as well,” said Lansing high school student and resident Rumi Williamson. “However, in situations like these I just have to trust God and the administration and their policies they have implemented to keep me safe.”
Mass shootings: an act of terrorism?
Many media outlets and citizens have brought up the debate of whether or not mass shootings constitute an act of terrorism.
Steven Chermak, a Michigan State University professor who teaches criminal justice said that the definition of terrorism varies by country and time, and even the U.S. government can’t agree on what it really is.
“In general though, most people think about terrorism as political violence,” he said. “Two critical things is that it’s motivated by an ideology and it’s also violent acts. It’s driven by an ideological motivation.”
Mass shootings by the numbers
It’s been 19 years since the Columbine shooting that took place at Columbine High School in Colorado taking the lives of 13 innocent victims.
“There’s not really a good empirical study that demonstrates copycat influence. But one’s gut feeling as well as sort of anecdotal response tends to show that what the media cover does influence behaviors in some ways,” Chermak said. “Especially criminal behaviors.”
Years after Columbine the nation has experienced a number of mass school shootings that have taken over media coverage.
The American non-profit organization that advocates for gun control, Every Town Gun Safety, has created a map that illustrates mass shootings in the United States since 2013
In 2018, we have had the Parkland shooting, the Maryland school shooting that killed 1 and injured 2 others, and also the incident that happened right here in Michigan. A 19-year-old student of Central Michigan University opened fire on campus and took the lives of both of his parents who were there to pick him up from the University.
Gun-related deaths are the number one cause of homicide and suicide within this country.
Parent Freddy Nyembwe, originally from Congo and who now resides in Lansing, said that cameras may help identify and prevent gun violence. He also said in other countries civilians are living without guns.
“For me, what I need is just to stop the using of guns,” he said. “I know that Obama was fighting for this years ago but I think if the actual President could decide that people should not use the guns, I think people would be living free.”
Source: ABC 15