A wake-up shot at SHS?

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 12, 2014

A gunshot rang out on the Salisbury High School campus Monday, injuring one student and terrifying hundreds more. Consider it a wake-up shot. The Salisbury community needs to face up to the problem of youth violence and find a way to defuse it.
The outcome at Salisbury High could have been much worse. The bullet fired at Shaleek Williams’ stomach missed vital organs. The 16-year-old, who was trying to break up a fight, was able to go home from the hospital the same day. No one else was injured. As school shootings go — think Columbine and Sandy Hook — this was minor.
But there’s nothing minor about an armed person going to a school and confronting someone with a weapon. Alone, this incident could be written off as the action of one out-of-control teenager who harbored anger about something that happened over the weekend and decided to settle the score on Monday. Rash and immature as it may be, such action is a serious crime worthy of heavy punishment.
Unfortunately, the incident joins a growing list of violent actions involving young people in town — from break-ins to shootings to killings. Statistical reports may mask it; from 2009 to 2013, overall violent crime is down nearly 21 percent in the city, according to the Salisbury Police Department. But recent incidents involving young people breaking the law may point to a generational problem.
Seven years have passed since 13-year-old Treasure Feamster was shot dead, caught in crossfire between two gangs outside a party. The city mounted an aggressive anti-gang initiative in response, and it may have made some headway. But dealing with youth violence is a never-ending challenge. The suspect in Monday’s shooting would have been only about 10 when Treasure was shot.
Today’s young people have tremendous exposure to gun violence in movies and shoot-’em-up video games. In real life, they have ready access to guns. And all too often, the guns wind up at school. A national study by the Centers for Disease Control found that in 2011, 5 percent of high school students carried a gun on school property, and 7 percent were threatened or injured by a weapon (gun, knife, club) on school property.
Of course, teenagers aren’t the only ones who try to settle petty issues with deadly force. Florida has had some high-profile examples — a young father shot down in a movie theater over texting, a teen killed in an argument over loud music. In those cases, the people charged are 47 or older.
Salisbury High has its share of top scholars and championship teams, but this week it became known for a school shooting. How can the school and the city now become known for a swift and effective response?