Editorial | School shooting threats should not be the norm


AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

Pittsburgh Police and paramedics respond to Pittsburgh Central Catholic High School for what turned out to be a hoax report of an active shooter on Wednesday, March 29, 2023 in the Oakland neighborhood of Pittsburgh.

For about an hour and a half, Pitt’s campus remained under lockdown after news of a potential active shooter at nearby high schools surfaced early on Wednesday. Police had received reports that there was an active shooter in Central and Oakland Catholic Schools, leading many Pittsburghers to panic. While the reports were unfounded and part of a statewide hoax involving computer-generated swatting calls, the threat posed by a potential school shooting caused genuine fear among Pitt, Oakland Catholic and Central Catholic students alike. 

This fear came just a mere few days after the shooting at the Covenant School in Nashville in which three 9-year-olds and three adults were killed. They also come during a time in which school shootings have remained a norm for nearly 30 years. As members of Gen Z, we have seen countless children murdered just for going to school. Even in this city, there was a mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue, so we are all too familiar with the fear they pose. 

School shootings are by no means normal, but unfortunately our society has begun to treat them as such. We deserve to go to school without worrying about the threat of death. And we shouldn’t have to just continue on with our lives after such a traumatic incident as yesterday’s events.

Despite the fact that the threats were fraudulent, there was a real fear among many students. Lockdowns of buildings at Pitt and a bombardment of information from the ENS system and administrators caused real fear. Children at the Catholic schools had to barricade their classrooms, were told to prepare to fight against a potential shooter and messaged their parents telling them goodbye. These students shouldn’t have had to go through that.

In 2023 alone, there have already been 130 mass shootings in the United States — and it’s only March. The fear of students in Pittsburgh was not unfounded. Mass shootings have become essentially normalized, but they shouldn’t. 

From a young age, Gen Z kids have had lockdown drills to prepare them on how to run, hide and fight a potential shooter. Yet our lawmakers have done nothing to pass stricter gun laws. How many more children is the U.S. government prepared to sacrifice? Why must we live in fear to go to school?

Instead of signing legislation to prevent school shootings altogether, our politicians only ever wish for thoughts and prayers after every shooting. And they continue to accept money from the NRA and then prevent any gun safety law from getting passed. Why should children have to prepare for getting shot at school because their lawmakers seem not to care if they live or die? While the threats on Wednesday were proven unfounded, that doesn’t mean a shooting couldn’t have happened.

These false reports on Wednesday also come a month before jury selection for the case of the Tree of Life mass shooting that took place right here in Pittsburgh. Our city already faced a collective trauma when people in our community were targeted and killed. Many of us experienced real fear on Wednesday despite the threats being fraudulent. We need to heal from our experience in order to truly feel safe in our schools again.

Why should we move on with our lives and accept this as normal? We need to make major changes to our gun safety legislation immediately — the lives of our children and ourselves depend on it.