Gun Violence at School: Is This The Norm?

Diana Sanchez, Contributing Writer

As an educator I have plenty to worry about on a day-to-day basis. I need to have papers and pencils ready for my students, and my lesson plans must be up to date. I shouldn’t have to fear for my safety, as well as the safety of the kids around me. How can we create a safe space to learn for the kids, let alone live, if we continue to let lax gun laws overrun our country?  I am all for protecting our second amendment rights, but there needs to be stricter background checks—- something, anything that needs to get done. Shootings like these shouldn’t be common anywhere, and teachers and students should not have to constantly fear that their lives are endangered. 

The shooting that happened in the Greenville neighborhood in Jersey City at the JC Kosher Supermarket, had me fear for my former colleagues. As an alumna of NJCU I couldn’t help but worry and wonder if my fellow professors, friends, and  colleagues were okay.

What if one of them left the campus at the wrong time? Sometimes that is all it takes. 

The shooting initially started in the Bayview Cemetery around 12:30,  about a mile away from the supermarket. Jersey City’s detective Joseph Seals was shot and killed. Detective Seals had served the force for over 15 years. He was tragically taken from his wife and five children.  Afterward, the shooting took the lives of three innocent bystanders: Mindel Ferencz (who ran the store with her husband), Miguel Douglas Rodriguez, an employee originally from Ecuador, and Moshe Deutch, a rabbinical student from Brooklyn. 

 I was shocked and concerned when I heard that  the private school just across from the market, Sacred Heart, had bullet holes in its windows. No one was hurt, however, and officers responded from a block away and kept the students and staff inside and  out of harm’s way. Forty two other schools were under lockdown as well. Olivia Durham, a volunteer with the Hudson County Students Demand Action, put things into perspective on their website: 

“ Just six months ago, Jersey City  Students Demand Action joined community partners and marched  down Martin Luther King Drive to honor victims and survivors of gun violence. Today that same street was the scene of a tragedy…In a city where gun violence is an unfortunate reality, events like this interrupt our education  and put a cloud of fear over our everyday lives. We don’t have to live like this.” 

Immediately, I began to think about the students I am servicing. We had a lockdown right after a Thanksgiving parade.  My students also had a recent scare long before I began subbing in their class. On September 26th  a bomb threat forced them all to evacuate to the nearest West New York Elementary  school. Luckily, it was a false alarm.

Emily Jabbour, a NJ  volunteer from the organization Moms Demand Action: For Gun Sense in America  is quite vocal on the organization’s website about gun violence in Jersey city; she makes a great point when she says:

“Jersey City is too often the scene of gun violence that doesn’t make the news…and once again, our city was devastated by horrific acts of violence that will traumatize those who live, work, and go to school in our community. Students yet again experienced the trauma of their schools feeling unsafe because of the school lockdowns throughout the city. Something has to change.” 

The organization’s website states that on average, there is a shooting every day in cities like Trenton, Jersey city, and Newark. There needs to be something done, not just to keep Jersey City residents safe, but the U.S as a whole needs to rethink gun control.

What if we lived in a world where teachers and students didn’t have to worry so much about lockdown drills and instead, in a world where teachers and students lived in a hospitable  learning environment . We should ask ourselves: why isn’t this the norm? 

 Editorial Note:

NJCU Alumna,

 Diana Sanchez,  was first an Op-Ed editor for the Gothic Times from June 2017 to February 2018 before ascending to the role of  News Editor until May 2018. She won the Best News Story in 2018 for her article: “Ambitious West Campus in Progress”  and G.O.A.T during her last semester at NJCU. S

he is currently a substitute 4th grade teacher at Harry L. Bain Elementary School in West New York a Graduate Research Assistant, and a master’s student at  Montclair State University. She is pursuing a Masters of Arts in Teaching with a concentration on English and students with disabilities.

The skills and abilities obtained by working at The Hub: Centralized Tutoring  Center and the Gothic Times landed her the opportunity to teach English composition abroad for two months in Brazil in 2018, and in the subsequent summer after that, she was the head language arts teacher and tutor for a summer learning program  at Iprime, a private academy in Palisades Park.