KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Many students across the Kansas City area returned to class last month, settling into the routine of a new school year.
There’s a part of that routine that’s increasingly different for this generation of students. A new routine informed by last spring’s school shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, and Olathe East High School in Olathe.
Parents, politicians and law enforcement officials have had their say in what we should do in response to school safety.
Now, it’s the students' turn.
KSHB 41 I-Team reporter Caitlin Knute gathered five students or recent graduates from across Kansas City to have a frank discussion about what changes they want to see.
The students, ranging in age from 12 to 23 years-old, discussed everything from mental health, and their advocacy efforts with March for our Lives, a movement aimed at ending gun violence.
The following is an edited transcript of part of their discussion.
Caitlin: How many of you have been doing active shooter drills since elementary school?
Panel: — all hands raise up —
Rachel: "I was born three months before Columbine happened, so my entire life has consisted of school shootings."
Caitlin: How have school shootings affected your mindset?
Isaac: "It’s hard to go to school carefree. It’s always somewhere in your head. Because if you’re going to school, there’s always that chance that somebody might come."
Nicholas: "We started changing our mindset to ‘It’s not a matter of if, it could be a matter of when.’ I think having that change in mindset has helped in some ways, because when you’re expecting it to happen and it doesn’t, then it’s a win-win. And if you’re expecting it to happen and it does happen, at least you’re more prepared than being completely blindsided."
Luciana: "It wasn’t a matter of time for me - it was a matter of when and it happened two months before I graduated, so even I didn’t make it."
(Luciana graduated this spring from Olathe East High School. Two months before her graduation, a student brought a gun to school, leading to an incident that left the student and two administrators wounded from gunfire. MORE COVERAGE)
Luciana: "The first couple shots sounded like a water bottle had fallen or something heavy. But seven? I knew right away. I had to go back to that school every day and have triggers every day. I had meltdowns leading up to my senior finals. Trying to graduate was hard enough as is. Now that I’m in summer, away from the school, I’m so much better. But at the time, I wasn’t honestly sure I was going to make it - I wasn’t sure I was going to graduate."
Caitlin: How can we make schools safer? Do we need to change gun laws?
Rachel: "I actually advocate for responsible gun owners; People who lock up their guns in their homes and put the ammunition away from the guns. Eight children and teens every single day are shot unintentionally by a firearm that’s left in their home. I applaud the responsible gun owners and I think we need more of them."
Genesis: "Gun violence in general has to stop. People are losing friends, siblings, daughters, sons. People are losing sisters and brothers and even moms and dads. It has to stop."
Caitlin: Do you think things can get better?
Genesis: "Yeah, definitely. I’m really, really excited because this conversation’s been started, and it's not going to stop."
Editor’s Note: Part 2 of this series focuses on the psychological impacts students experience in a world of school shootings. It will be available later this week.