Pullman must offer multiple pathways toward safer community

Community should curb violence with gun laws, inclusivity focused on mental health

Kasey Smith, Guest columnist

My faith in the Pullman communities is wavering.

Although it has been a relatively safe and welcoming place for me to grow up, I am sick of the same old comparing process people tend to take here: “At least it’s not as bad as Spokane.” That may be true, but that does not mean we shouldn’t make efforts to turn Pullman into a comprehensive and accepting environment.

Of course, these efforts should likely be informed by the recent mass shootings taking place at schools just like Pullman High — and what is our honest defense against that happening here? As a student at PHS, I am frightened and dismayed that I cannot give an answer to that, and upon further inquiry, I found it was completely out of my hands to give one.

This is what causes me to lose faith — I see no record of action around me and I cannot understand why Pullman is letting itself down in that regard. That is to say, why should Pullman tolerate a violent world just because we are safer than most?

There are still many instances in Pullman High of students using violence as an outlet, whether they are joking about shooting up the school or genuinely considering hurting their classmates. I believe the first step we should take as a “defense plan” is to make a better culture at our schools and in our city.

I think there needs to be some attention given to the fact that the people who tend to turn to violence in schools often don’t have much else to turn to — there is no counselor, there is no time for students to relax and there is no baseline culture to support students going through hard times. Often, students who need this sort of help end up in detention or suspension, instead of being able to express themselves in a reasonable way.

Gun laws alone are simply not going to solve the problem of violence as an outlet, and neither is the idea of arming teachers and getting rid of gun-free zones. Though this may be the focus of many upcoming walk-outs and protests, the topic of these walk-outs may not be the most important part about them.

Last year, there was a single walk-out after the election of President Donald Trump, in which a multitude of voices and opinions were heard. It was an opportunity for discussion and activism, a chance for students to try to find their identity and find other students like them.

I see no reason why discussion and identity should not be supported; however, walk-outs are not enough to achieve this goal of safer schools and a better culture, even if it is effective at elevating students’ voices.

The voices of students and the younger generations need to be respected in the matter of their concerns and their feelings. After all, they are the ones getting attacked in their own public schools. They should be respected as individuals and young adults, because we have the same right as any to expressions and opinions.

Pullman needs to prove to our students that we not only live in a safe community, but an accepting community.

A good start to this is the leadership class at Pullman High, who took a field trip to local retirement homes and decorated their hallways and kept them company. The leadership class has connected with local veterans and reached out to the incoming freshmen to make them feel welcome.

Connections like these are what Pullman needs more of, because that is the key to bringing our community together and allowing inclusivity in a safer environment.

I want to see a Pullman in which individuals stand up for individuals, whoever they may be. Connectivity, inclusive communities and activism can help protect Pullman from gun violence, not arming teachers or getting rid of gun-free zones.