Our Detroit school is a fortress. Every door is locked from the outside and equipped with sensors. Leave it open too long and the alarm screeches through the hallway like a cat in heat. When school shootings occur, as a school counselor, I spring into action. I prepare myself to have students come to my office for courageous conversations about gun violence. My job is to attempt to restore their confidence and normalcy; get their head back in the academic game. In Detroit, where I work, no one ever comes to me after a shooting — not even a parent phone call to ask, “what is your plan if someone shoots up the school?” Nothing. After the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida I decided to go to them. In the lunch room, I sat with my students and asked: “Did you hear about what happened in Florida.” They had. “Are you concerned about something like that happening here?” Their answer is a confident unanimous, “No.” My kids cavalierly mention, “Black people don’t go around shooting up places, all reckless, white people do that.” I reminded my students of The Charleston Massacre when Dylann Roof, a white supremacist terrorist killed nine black people in their church. So even if black people do not typically commit mass killings on average, we can be victims of them. “Oh, yeah, that was crazy, Mrs. Mohammed,” another student says, “but that was a church. Ain’t nobody getting up in here with no nonsense!” High School students aren’t confident about much, but my ad hoc focus group of black, Latinx, and Arab-American students are very confident about their safety in our school building on the Detroit’s west side. Every morning students arrive an hour to thirty minutes in their uniform before the first bell to wait in a line to pass through a metal detector, have their backpacks searched, and get patted down by security guards. It is just not students — every parent, guest, even the postman walks through those metal detectors, gets their photo taken, and is greeted by a security guard who escorts them to the main office, right by our deputized police officer’s desk. Our Detroit school is a fortress. Every door is locked from the outside and equipped with sensors. Leave it open too long and the alarm screeches through the hallway like a cat in heat. All the windows have bars, and thick glass with wire mesh running through it. Shooting it out would be a waste. Only one of the metal six front doors can be opened without a pass-card or a key. And none of the side doors are ever unlocked. There are cameras at every intersection, and patrolling security guards. The main throughway doors have magnets which can be tripped by an alarm and instantly shut and lock, quarantine whatever part of the building you need it to. If there were a shooter, he would not be able to freely roam the building if that particular alarm was tripped. This isn’t The White House, this is inner city schooling.
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