Near Misses? Potential Deaths.
High school personnel risk student lives, denial ensues
Life events aren’t random and independent. When a “very good thing” happens, it's more likely to happen in the future. When a “very bad thing” happens, it’s alsomore likely to happen in the future. Our influences stick around — for better or for worse. When an “almost very bad thing that was narrowly averted” happens — a very bad thing is still more likely to happen.
It’s problematic to assume that an almost-catastrophe — or “near miss”— is just as benign as a pure success. It’s not.
The events of the past are almost never independent of the ones in the future — especially if we control for the institution involved. And in some of the worst cases, that involves loss of life.
With this in mind, I take you back to the events of November 4th, 2023 at Stockdale High School, where I graduated from. Here’s the gist:
A mid-size fight — which was preceded by other fights — broke out in the school quad. For context, the quad is a large circular grass field with tables around it and adjacent to other buildings and exits. A staff member who tried to intervene was hurt — according to students on social media.
Numerous students then reported seeing guns. However, at this point, multiple security guards had locked potential exits, such as those into the “spine,” which branches off into numerous classrooms. This forced a substantial number of students to climb fences to escape.
After the chaos, the Kern High School District (KHSD) insisted that “there was no firearm found on campus” and that these were merely “unsubstantiated rumors.”
Hopefully, you’ve spotted some issues with how this situation was handled. Some of it has to do with a lack of proactivity: why didn’t the staff member have more support to try and deescalate the situation? But the bulk of concern is what happened during the incident and after.
For example, one report on social media noted that some students had to “wait along with many students” until someone unlocked the exits. If there was an active shooter, would someone physically unable to walk (e.g. someone using wheelchair or crutches) sit there while their classmates climb to escape? Or are they just going to have to sit there and risk their lives?
The other issue is the response by the KHSD. How did they conclude that these were “rumors?” To do so, they would need to do one of the following.
Identify a very clear, small group of suspects that can be interrogated. Given the inevitable chaos that resulted, it is unlikely that the suspects could even have been identified clearly. This video, for example, shows students jumping over a fence in large numbers.
You search everyone. Again, see the same footage from before. Because if there were students who climbed over the fence, the person with the gun could feasibly have also. One student even got as far as the restaurant across the street, so the range is very far.
I can’t think of anything else. It’s not like a confession from someone is enough to declare the situation a “rumor.”
Therefore, why is the KHSD so dismissive? They’re falling into that same fallacy — that a near miss is “normal” and “fine”. It’s not normal and it’s not fine. A “near miss” is a step away from “tragic disaster.” Nearly all students and parents recognize this, and they’re scared. Adding to this concern, multiple headlines in local news outlets asserted that the threats were “not credible” or “unfounded”— when this is not the case.
Even without any deaths or critical injuries, don’t believe that there were no victims. Every student at Stockdale High that day was — and still probably is — on edge and distressed. The KHSD is doubling down to protect themselves — and not their students. The responses by security personnel during the incident and the KHSD afterward are inexcusable.