Editorial: In response to the Oxford High School shooting

Editorial: In response to the Oxford High School shooting

Editorial Board

On November 30, a 15-year-old used a pistol at Oxford High School in Michigan to kill four and injure seven. There have been vigils, statements from government officials, social media responses — all part of a story told scarily too often. Time and time again, school shootings occur around the United States as schools ignore warning signs of imminent shootings. 

One of the many alarming aspects of the shooting was the warning signs in the previous days. The shooter had statements found in his backpack showing a “desire to shoot up the school to include murdering students,” according to Tim Willis, a lieutenant with the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office. He had posted photos of his weapon on Instagram, and changed his bio on the site to read, “ “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” See you tomorrow, Oxford.”

Another especially jarring aspect of this story was how the shooter’s parents bought him the Sig Sauer semiautomatic pistol. Afterward, he posted a picture of it on Instagram with the caption “Just got my new beauty today.” When the shooter was caught in class looking at pictures of ammunition online on the day before the shooting and the school notified his mother, she responded: “LOL I’m not mad at you. You have to learn not to get caught.” 

All of these incidents should have warned the school that a shooting was not unlikely, and yet the school did not take any substantial actions to prevent it. 

As a school district, there is a lot of focus on ALICE training, which stands for “alert, lockdown, inform, counter, and evacuate.” While we applaud the efforts to drill for shootings by not just hiding in the corner, we also need to focus on recognizing warning signs before shootings occur. If efforts are only focused on stopping a school shooting after they start, it is accepting that they will happen. In order to truly prevent them, addressing the root causes and watching for warning signs has to be just as important.

Sandy Hook Promise, a non-profit dedicated to ending school shootings and recognizing warning signs, identifies several warning signs that were present in the Oxford shooting. Some of these include sudden withdrawal, experiencing social isolation, making direct threats, and bragging about access to guns or other weapons. 

In Oxford, the shooter wrote publicly about wanting to commit the school shooting, was caught looking at pictures of ammunition in school, and threatened the shooting on social media. These are clear indicators of predispositions to violence. The warning signs need to be taken extremely seriously. 

If you are a student and you see someone posting anything that could be a warning sign of a shooting, you need to tell someone. We’ve heard this line over and over again, but it rings true yet again: “if you see something, say something.”

School shootings are a tragedy that we, unfortunately, need to plan for. Recognizing warning signs and speaking up if you suspect anything, however small it may seem, can save lives and prevent future tragedies from occurring.