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OPED: Students of color are dying and no one is listening


People light candles for a makeshift memorial Feb. 14 after an interfaith ceremony at Pine Trails Park in Parkland, Florida, to remember the 17 people killed last year at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Tribune News Service Buy Photos

The mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida occurred a year ago last week. 

Since the devastating shooting in which 17 people were killed, there has been an average of one school shooting every 12 days in the United States. 

Gun violence in schools is still a threat, and the media has had a lot of tragedies to cover in the news. While the shootings in Parkland and Noblesville, Indiana, made national news, there has been a lack of coverage for schools with a high minority population. 

This isn’t to say that these two shootings did not deserve to be covered, but when you look at the statistics, shootings in schools with a high minority population are the ones getting brushed under the rug.  

When you look at the statistics, shootings in schools with a high minority population are the ones getting brushed under the rug. How we perceive school shootings, like almost everything else in society, is not independent of race.

Part of the reason for the biased media coverage is the inconsistent way in which school shootings are defined. One would think that a gun being shot in a school would at least count as a school shooting, but often the only events that are counted as “actual” school shooting are those in which people are killed indiscriminately. 

These are the classic shooting cases, such as Parkland, where someone who the media falsely deems mentally ill shoots students at random. Not only does this mislead the public about the threat of gun violence against our youth, but it also silences stories of children of color being shot in and around school. 

Did you ever hear about the multiple shootings at Delaware Valley Charter High School in Philadelphia? Despite the fact that in 2014 there were three separate incidents—leaving five students injured and one dead— these went largely unreported. The fact that Delaware Valley Charter High School is 98 percent African American is not a coincidence.

Even if these were instances targeted attacks and don’t fit America’s expected mold for school shootings, they still have a devastating impact on the children who witness them. According to one study, any type of gun or knife attack, even if the attack proves not to be fatal, traumatizes the children who witness as much as it does the children who were attacked. 

The lack of coverage of these types of crimes fails to acknowledge the trauma that young children of color experience. Even when school shootings happen where in a place that actually incites a media frenzy, black students are still ignored.

Outcry for the safety of white students leads to many schools hiring armed resource officers to retaliate against a possible shooter. Racial profiling is already a problem in daily life, and students of color who interact with resource officers are now being profiled in schools. 

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, black students are arrested by school resource officers 2.3 times more often than white students. The fear of police brutality added to the normal stressors of school does not make a good environment for children of color.

This is why it’s so important to consider black voices. Their voices matter. Their lives matter. School shootings aren’t only tragedies when they happen to white kids, and it’s time to stop acting like children of color are disposable. Gun violence disproportionately affects student of color. We need to acknowledge that; and, more importantly, we need to listen to them.  

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