When Will Fulton County Take Their Gun Problem Seriously?

Yesterday at Banneker High School in College Park Georgia, there was a shooting. I saw it across my Facebook feed and held my breath as I opened the article. Thankfully, it was a gun that went off on accident in a classroom. It hit a girl’s ankle and grazed another student. I opened the article holding my breath because I used to teach there, and some of my friends still do. I am grateful it was an accident that will have no life or death consequences. I wish it didn’t happen, but I cannot say I am surprised. I’ve known there were guns at Banneker High School since I taught there in 2007. Ten years ago I knew there was a problem, and so did everyone else. Fulton County was more interested in optics than actually safety

I worked at Banneker from the fall of 2007 through the spring of 2010, until I was surplussed to Tri-Cities high school in East Point. The entire time I was there, I knew kids were bringing guns to school. I knew they were and so did everyone else. Nothing was ever done.

Every few months or so an announcement would come on and we would be told to lock our doors. Don’t let anyone in, don’t let anyone out. The administration and the resource officers, and sometimes extra officers would open most of the lockers to see what was in them. They would come into certain classrooms and pat down kids. They would ask for bookbags to be opened and dumped out. And every single time, every single time they went looking for them, guns were found on school grounds. In lockers, in bookbags, guns were found in the school every year, multiple times a year.

In the spring of my first year I was walking to my car when the rush of students that was normally coming out of the building was suddenly rushing back onto me. All the kids who were normally running out of the school were suddenly running back into it. The kids were screaming that there was a gun. The kids were insisting someone had a gun at the bus loop.

The next day the only people that were talking about this incident were the kids. No announcement, no letter home, no we are looking into it. Nothing. The official position of the school and Fulton County was that there was never any gun. No one who had the power to do anything about it, simply claimed the gun problem did not exist. Meanwhile everyone actually showing up in the school every day knew there was a problem.

I am saddened that there was an accident with a gun at Banneker. I am sad because this will yet again over shadow all the amazing work that is done at that school every day. People will shake their heads and blame the community that goes to the school. Why does this happen?

This happens, a gun goes off accidentally at a school because Fulton County Schools has ignored a problem everyone knew was going on for at least ten years. When I was teaching there, everyone in that building knew that sometimes kids brought guns to school, they found them in their lockers sometimes. But Fulton County preferred to lead with the test scores from the North side of the county, and claim lots of diversity by forgetting to mention how segregated the school system really is. Fulton county, who felt that metal detectors weren’t necessary, mostly by ignoring the rumors that everyone knew were true. A gun went off on accident in a classroom and no one is dead. Fulton County got lucky, but when will they take the problem seriously?

3 thoughts on “When Will Fulton County Take Their Gun Problem Seriously?

  1. This is a solid complaint, but where’s your solution? Banneker has already announced this morning that they are immediately banning backpacks. You seem to imply the solution is metal detectors. I’d be interested to know why you think metal detectors will be more or less effective in solving for guns in schools than the backpack ban.

    • I think they were forced into the first solution: admitting there was a problem, and I am grateful for the backpack ban, that seems like a reasonable first step. I don’t know if metal detectors would work or not, but can they maybe at least look into it?

  2. Abby, you had me terrified reading the first couple of lines of your post. Long before you were at Banneker we had a shooting in the parking lot–nobody hit, but a teacher’s car got damaged. We were all hoping they would buy him a new car.

    We had transparent plastic backpacks for a while at Banneker and I don’t think that solved much. I can’t imagine the backpack ban will be much different.

    Abby, were you around when the services building was armed and guarded like, say, the White House? If you went there you had to show ID to an armed guard, be photographed, and pass through a metal detector just to get in the building to go to a meeting. If you didn’t have a meeting to attend they wouldn’t let you in at all–they just sent somebody down from whatever office you needed to go to and they would talk to you in the lobby. Outside the secured area.

    It used to make me madder every time I had to go there for a Spectrum reading meeting. In the schools where all the children were anybody could just walk in the door carrying anything. But the superintendent’s office–that had to be protected. Of course now they have moved the whole operation to the north county so as to be closer to the high test scores, I guess.

    And I’m with you. What we really need are gun laws, a solution to poverty and racism, and some way for kids to feel safe going to school without a gun. In the meantime I think metal detectors wouldn’t hurt.

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