School board members stated that they worry about security and emotional distress of the students if the memorial is on school grounds. They have every reason to be worried.
Ever since the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, tributes to the victims have been regularly defaced or dishonored. A thief stole a peace sign associated with the Grace McDonnell memorial playground, and a man later called McDonnell’s mother saying that he did it because the shooting was a hoax.
In 2021, the City of Delray Beach unveiled a Pride mural to honor the victims of the Pulse nightclub massacre that killed nearly 50 people. A few days later, a man with a truck draped in Donald Trump flags intentionally defaced it.
Last month, another man who was obsessed with school shootings was arrested in Florida. He had been leaving dead and mutilated animals on the memorial dedicated to the victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre.
This problem is not going to get better. While the families of Santa Fe’s victims have every right to demand the public face a reminder of what America’s failed gun policies have done to our schools, the board has a point. In the most recent trial against radio host Alex Jones for instigating the harassment of the families of school shooting victims by calling them hoaxes, it was revealed one fan of Jones’ actually urinated on the grave of a murdered child.
How traumatizing will it be for children at Santa Fe to look out the window of math class one day and see someone whizzing on a memorial to own the liberals? How safe will they feel when someone graffities the memorial with accusations that all the bloodshed was made up to take guns away?
We are currently living through a war on reality where mass shootings are reduced to social game pieces by people who value their arsenals over truth. Every shooting of significant size that happens now births wild conspiracy theories about how it either didn’t occur or was somehow a good thing. This exists because we have consistently prioritized the right of people to be dangerously misinformed over the right of people to be free from attack. Hopefully, the fall of Jones will herald an age where truth is more important than extreme right wing feelings of persecution.
That age is still years off, if it is even coming. Until then, building a memorial on Santa Fe school grounds is just asking for even more sadness at a school that’s already had more than its share.