Prom experience should not include bullets

I never attended my high school prom. It wasn’t a particular rite of passage I was interested in at the time, although maybe my view has evolved over the years.  Of course, if I were in high school today, my own personal interest in the prom would probably take a backseat to another nagging question—Is it safe?

Proms used to be an occasion where guys and girls dressed in formal wear and danced the night away. Pretty photos and rides in limos used to be the norm. Granted, it wasn’t all perfect—you had a girl or two end up pregnant after the regular prom ended and other celebrations began, but at least 20 years ago, you never had to worry about getting shot at your prom.

Until last night, the students at Antigo High School in Antigo, Wis., never had to worry about that, either. Unfortunately, a former student decided to open fire on students as they were leaving. Police are saying there were no specific targets, but a boy and girl were injured. Fortunately, they’re both still alive, although the boy required surgery. The shooter was not so lucky, as he ended up getting shot by police and dying later at the hospital.

The reason why this weighed so heavily on my mind today was two-fold. First, Antigo is about an hour’s drive from Shawano. It’s not an urban area; like Shawano, most of the area is rural. The high school is similar in size to Shawano’s, which brings to mind that, if something like this could happen in Antigo, it’s not a stretch to think Shawano could be at risk, as well.

The second reason is that, right after I saw the news about the shooting, I went on my Facebook page and saw photos from my oldest niece about her prom night. For a moment, I was thrilled that she got to have a good time, but that elation quickly gave way to wondering whether or not some unbalanced graduate could have done the same thing at her prom. It’s not the sort of thing an uncle wants to worry about, but that seems to be the world we live in.

There have been enormous strides by schools all over the country to make them more safe so that school shootings are less likely to take place. When I travel to schools, most times I have to press a buzzer to get in the front door or at the very least navigate through the main office to get to my destination.

However, this shooter set up outside the prom location and waited for students to exit before exerting his rage. How do you protect against that? Even with police officers patrolling nearby, the shooter was able to get some shots off and cause harm. Thankfully, no one at the prom perished, but most of those who attended probably will have a bad image whenever they remember their prom.

I’m not sure what solution exists that would tackle this problem, but one thing is certain. For those few naïve folks who still might be living in a bubble and thinking bad things could never happen where they live, the incident in Antigo just burst that bubble.

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