Amid increased shootings, area students discuss gun violence

By Ariel Worthy
The Birmingham Times
Students from left: DeCarlo Howard, Ja’Meria Ellison, Ryan Joiner, Anjali Thottassery, and Nehemiah Edison. (Ariel Worthy/The Birmingham Times)

Five students from Birmingham and Hoover High Schools on Tuesday talked about gun violence and several other issues during a panel discussion at the Birmingham Public Library Central Branch.

Hosted by the Community Affairs Committee, students from Birmingham’s Huffman, Carver and Woodlawn High Schools and Hoover High School discussed the aftermath of March 7 shooting at Huffman High School where 17-year-old Courtlin Arrington was killed.

DeCarlo Howard, 16, who attends Huffman High School talked about the changes.

“Every single day we go through metal detectors and now they have limited the number of entrances into the school,” he said. “They’ve put cameras in the schools, and now a lot of people are like, ‘I don’t want to do that. There are cameras around.’ They’ve also been stricter on dress codes. Things you could get away with yesterday, you can’t get away with today.”

Howard said he feels safe at school, but the shooting served as a reminder.

“You don’t go to school and think about guns and dying. You just go there thinking about learning and enjoying your day,” he said. “It’s a reminder that you shouldn’t get comfortable because things can happen.”

The day after the Huffman High School shooting, teachers at Woodlawn dedicated their classes to talking about what happened, said Ryan Joiner, a student government association member at the school. “I thought it was good that they gave us that day to talk about it,” he said.

Anjali Thottassery, who attends Hoover High School outside of Birmingham, said her school does not have metal detectors.

“We should have metal detectors because at a school with 3,000 students we need that,” she said. “Our school has [taken precautions] to decrease any weapons entering, they lock all the doors except the main doors.”

Ja’Meria Ellison, who attends Woodlawn High School, said the school uses metal detectors in the morning, much to the students dismay, but she finds it necessary.

“Some of our classes make us leave the building to go to another building, and when you’re coming back in you’re not checked again,” she said. “It’s easy for kids to call a friend and grab a weapon from them and go back in the school.”

Joiner said all students should be taken seriously, and not just those who excel academically.

“One of my friends is not the hardest working kid, however when the shooting happened he was the first to cry and he was the first to say we have to do something,” Joiner said. “The only reason that he never spoke out [before] was because he thought that adults wouldn’t listen because of his image. Although we were taught not to judge a book by his cover, he is judged by his cover.”

Howard said he also wants adults to pay more attention to what students face.

“Sometimes when you go to adults they say things like, ‘[we] went through it when they were younger,’ but it’s a different time,” he said. “When you don’t take [students] seriously, you push a student to go out on their own and find their own way because they don’t feel that they can talk to somebody.”

Students took questions from the audience. One in particular, “should schools increase police officers or counselors?” The student panelists all agreed: schools need more counselors.

“Police officers stop situations from happening, but the counselors are the ones that can stop it from even being a thought,” Crawford said.

Bullying also plays a role in the school shootings, the students said.

Joiner said he knew someone who was bullied who thought about getting a gun.

“I talked him out of it, but I feel that it plays a role in gun violence,” he said. “But it shows that it can be prevented by talking.”