AKRON, Ohio — The possibility of gun violence is a frightening reality for students and teachers, with a record number of school shootings across the country in 2022 and 2023 on track to exceed that.

Many schools practice lockdowns so students will know what to do if there’s a possible threat, and a recent high school graduate wants to help students stay calm when faced with these scary situations.

What You Need To Know

  • A record number of school shootings took place across the country in 2022 and 2023 is on track to exceed that number

  • An Akron high school senior invented a kit to use in classrooms during lockdowns to help keep kids calm

  • Items included in the Safety Emergency Classroom Kit prototype are also meant to assist students with special needs

When Abigail Gibbons walks the halls of Akron STEM High School, she carries with her lessons learned since elementary school.

“It was easy back then, but I didn’t know it,” she said.

But the proud member of the class of 2023 said the workload isn’t the only thing that changed over the years.

“You have to constantly feel like you have to watch your, like, watch over yourself in a way,” she said. “And I know that there’s security and there’s police here, but they can’t be everywhere all at once.”

She said she experienced her first school lockdown freshman year.

“Basically, we’re told to get down and hide away from all of the lights,” she said. “And we’re just told to get in the corner. And we’re all huddled together and it’s a very serious situation.”

According to the K-12 School Shooting Database, 273 people wounded or killed by gunfire on campuses across the country last year and more than 115 people injured or killed so far in 2023.

“I’m tired of seeing all these students in the news that are younger than me and that they’re traumatized for the rest of their life,” Gibbons said.

That inspired Gibbons to invent something teachers can have handy to help ease kids’ anxiety during a lockdown.

“I wanted to create an acronym that way people would also know, like, what it stands for,” she said. “So when you hear ‘SECK', you think, like, Safety Emergency Classroom Kit.”

The kit is her senior year capstone project and is packed with items like fidget toys, noise canceling headphones and Hot Hands.

“I found that, like, heat can calm kids down,” she said.

Many of the items included were suggested by her school speech therapist mom and her coworkers, who kept in mind students with special needs.

“If they have something to focus on, it draws their attention to that, versus what’s going on around them,” Gibbons said.

Everything has a purpose, including the storage container, which doubles as a toilet.

“It came with these lined trash bags that actually fit inside of it, so in case we’re in a long-time emergency and students have to use the restroom,” she said.

Brianne Remenaric is an intervention specialist at Akron STEM High School and sees first-hand the mental health impact of lockdown drills.

“You can see the students after we finish, after we wrap up, after we put the chair down from blockading our doors, you see them needing time to decompress,” she said.

Remenaric is keeping Gibbons’ SECK prototype to use in her classroom.

“We need more kids like Abby to step up and come up with these ideas,” she said. “And hope to God we never need them.”

“I can’t prevent people’s actions, but I can at least make them feel comforted,” Gibbons said.

Gibbons plans to study civil engineering at the University of Akron. She said she wants to make Safety Emergency Classroom Kits available in all classrooms from elementary to college.