Following yet another instance of unimaginable violence at a school – this time at Covenant School in Nashville, Tennessee – students across the state and around the country once again rallied to demand safer schools and communities.
Thousands of students participated in a national school walkout, capturing attention and calling for action. As one student demonstrator told USA Today, she and her peers want to “make sure our lawmakers understand that we want more than just thoughts and prayers.”
We’ve seen this before. Teenagers and young adults made their voices heard after the Parkland High School incident in Parkland, Florida, and students rallied nationally after 19 elementary school students and two teachers were killed at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.
Kaylee Tyner, a 16-year-old junior at Columbine High School, captured students’ perspective, saying to The New York Times, “We have grown up watching more tragedies occur and continuously asking: Why?”.
They ask these questions louder and more frequently as devastating instances of gun violence become tragically familiar.
To date, there hasn’t been a satisfying answer as “thoughts and prayers” recede into inaction until another tragedy inevitably reaches all of us again. We ignore their perspectives to our peril.
Simply put, students want safety, and they want it now. It’s time to deliver.
Rejecting Old-School Thinking
School districts, university campuses, and public safety officers are not ignorant of these challenges, and many are investing time, talent, and financial resources into finding better solutions.
Often, those ideas are rooted in old-school thinking. If we have a gun violence problem, they posit, outfitting more people with weapons might be an adequate answer.
Meanwhile, several states have passed laws allowing teachers to carry guns on school grounds or are re-arming campus police, a remedy rejected by students and teachers who worry about a potential source of further gun incidents and misuse of weapons.
At the same time, many schools and college campuses are re-arming their security officers. George Washington University elected to arm 20 George Washington Police Department officers for the upcoming school year, a decision met with very strong opposition from the student body, who expressed their concern over adding more guns on campus.
Each of these perceived remedies reflects an outdated and “traditional” way of thinking, which holds that the solution to any problem is to add more resources, in this case, more guns and security personnel.
However, this one-dimensional approach is no longer applicable in today’s world, where digital technology has revolutionized the way we approach problem-solving.
Perhaps the students who are rallying and protesting against more guns are raising visibility to bring attention to the fact that there is another approach. This student generation has been raised in a fully digital world, with a smartphone in their hand from birth. They see the world differently, with problems and opportunities resolved through digital innovation.
A Better Path Forward
It is time to move beyond the old dichotomy of “more is better” and instead focus on finding more thoughtful and innovative solutions. Students reject the notion that adding more guns is the answer and instead call for a more comprehensive and scalable approach that leverages digital technology.
The use of technology can provide a much broader benefit, not just for schools but for the entire community.
For example, cameras constantly survey physical spaces, allowing security personnel to respond rapidly to emergencies without causing concern when conditions are safe. They also never get tired, don’t need breaks, and can operate 24/7 without any issues.
Additionally, cameras are infinitely scalable, meaning campuses can add as many cameras as they need without worrying about staff fatigue or limitations.
Furthermore, digital technology can enable predictive analytics and early warning systems that detect potential threats or concerning behavior patterns. By analyzing data from various sources, such as social media, online platforms, and campus networks, it becomes possible to identify individuals who may pose a risk and intervene before any harm occurs.
This proactive approach enhances campus safety and respects individual privacy rights by focusing on specific behavioral indicators rather than broad surveillance.
The Time is Now
The cries for safety from students nationwide are unignorable. They demand a resounding and satisfying response.
The traditional modes of ensuring security are neither adequate nor fully accepted by those they are designed to protect.
The conversation and actions must shift from the archaic and one-dimensional approach of adding more guns and security personnel to a more innovative and comprehensive one that leverages the capabilities of digital technology.
It’s a shift that can enhance safety, maintain respect for individual privacy, and potentially prevent the heartbreaking instances of violence that have spurred this call for change.
It’s clear the students want safety, and they want it now. It’s time we listened and adapted, leveraging the technology and the progressive thinking necessary to create safer school environments.