Harford County students have not planned any vigils for the victims of school shootings or protests against the availability of guns, the student representative on the county’s Board of Education said Tuesday.
But that doesn’t mean Harford students aren’t concerned for their safety, or in sympathy with the victims of last week’s shooting deaths at a Florida high school, student board representative Matt Resnik said.
Seventeen people, including 14 students, died when a gunman opened fire Feb. 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. Nikolas Cruz, 19, has been charged with 17 counts of murder.
“Students go to school everyday not knowing what is going to happen,” Resnik said in a text message. “With all of the shootings, students become more [worried] everyday.”
“I feel that this problem has to do more with society than guns themselves,” Resnik, 18, a senior at C. Milton Wright High School, who has filed as a candidate for the Harford County Republican Central Committee, said. “Fortunately for the students of Harford County, we have a trained officer at our schools. However, in a place like Florida or other schools, their only hope is a sign saying: guns and weapons prohibited.”
“We need to wake up as a society and realize that signs alone aren't enough, and in areas such as inner cities where gun laws are severe/more strict and crime is higher, maybe that is also telling us something,” Resnik said.
While Resnik said he not aware of any vigils or protests planned locally in the wake of the Florida shootings, a few students are planning to speak at the next school board meeting Monday evening about students with suicidal tendencies and what the county is doing to address suicide prevention.
“Students are scared, I know there are parents that are scared for their children, there's no doubt about that,” he said. “We have done drills to prepare us in case of an active shooter event; however, with the events in Florida it serves as a stark reminder that they [shootings] could really happen anywhere.”
“What students need to be looking for is warning signs and reporting them to staff or a parent immediately,” he said. “If they think in school someone might be suicidal or they're known to have odd tendencies, they need to be reported.”
In many cases of school shootings, students will later say they prior sensed oddities about the student accused in the shooting. Resnik said, “Those students who have been labeled in that sense have to be reported and closely watched.”
Delane Lewis, founder of Together We Will-Harford County/Upper Chesapeake, a local group that has spoken out on racial issues and rallied to save the Affordable Care Act, said she also does not know of any local organized protests over gun violence.
Lewis said Tuesday that several members of her group attended a vigil for school shooting victims held Saturday outside a fundraiser for House of Delegates candidate Aaron Penman, where guns were being offered as bingo prizes.
Lewis also said she and other Together We Will members plan to attend the national student-led March for Our Lives Rally in Washington, D.C. March 24.
She planned to attend a local town hall Tuesday evening, hosted by Republican Del. Rick Impallaria and his District 7 colleagues at the Perry Hall Library in Baltimore County, where Lewis said she would speak against House Bill 760, sponsored by Impallaria. The bill would allow local school boards to authorize their employees, who have handgun permits, to carry firearms while on school property as a means to protect students.
Lewis called the legislation “short-sighted” and said a police officer should provide increased protection, if needed.
"I am not looking to take away people’s right to bear arms, but I think there’s a lot we can do to improve the situation and increase safety, especially in these scenarios,” she said.
A House of Delegates committee hearing on Impallaria’s bill is scheduled for March 6 in Annapolis.
Impallaria said Tuesday that representatives from the nonprofit group FASTER, or Faculty/Administrator Safety Training & Emergency Response, are scheduled to testify at the hearing. The Ohio-based organization trains armed educators in that state how to respond to an active shooter, according to its website.
"I do think that as this type of violence increases, we need to finally start finding solutions and trying new ways to combat it,” he said.
Impallaria will also host town halls at 10 a.m. Saturday at Jarrettsville Elementary School in Harford County and at 10 a.m Saturday March 3 in Hereford High School in Baltimore County.
"The town hall is about any issues that we are dealing with in Annapolis or any issues the community wants to bring to our attention,” he said.