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Virginia Foxx visits the NCLA
By Brooke Bandy
On this past Wednesday, April 24, the 5th district House Representative Virginia Foxx visited our school. She opened up the conversation talking about her childhood, how she grew up in a poor household, and then how long she has been in office.
Working in Washington D.C. and living here in North Carolina seems like a crazy drive for a job in Congress, right? ““I come home every weekend … I’m in DC usually Monday through Thursday and Tuesday through Friday,” said Foxx.
Virginia Foxx has been in politics for over twenty years. She was elected to the State Senate in 1994 and served there for a decade before moving on to the House of Representatives. Since her election in 2004, she has served fourteen years in the House of Representatives and has spent two of those years as Chairman for the Education and Workforce Committee. “I’m the lead Republican on the Education and Labor Committee, which is a real challenge right now to stop a lot of bad legislation that’s being passed and some of it i can’t stop but we’ll do the best that we can with it,” said Foxx
She then moved on to discuss the Constitution and its importance to legislature. She pulled out her pocket Constitution and said that the legislation portion of the Constitution has more pages delegating its powers than all of the other branches, proving its strength.
She also brought up the tenth amendment, which states that any power not specifically given to the federal government is reserved to the states. She said that because of this amendment and our republic, the government is the car and the people are the drivers.
Once she had finished speaking, she allowed students to ask questions. One student asked what the key was to getting elected as many times as she has been. “Stay close to your constituents, respond to the constituents,” said Foxx.
Being so close to her voters and supporters means going around to schools in her district and interacting with the people she represents. “Oh gosh, I was at Piney Grove yesterday and I’m going over to East Forsyth right now, and so I probably do two or three a month,” said Foxx.
Going to as many schools as she does, Virginia Foxx sees a lot of students. Seeing this many students means she sees a whole lot of views on politics. “I do think students are being swayed a lot by the comments being made about free tuition, free college, paying off loans, it’s like a siren song too, I’d say to students too … it’s a false promise,” said Foxx.
Foxx introduces many bills every year and plans to introduce more this year. “I will probably introduce several bills, again, I have introduced several bills,” Foxx continued, “There are thousands (of bills) introduced, but only hundreds are passed.”
She hopes to encourage students to get more involved in their government as a result of her school visits. “If you don’t get involved, you may get a government you don’t like,” said Foxx.
When asked about her plans for the next couple years, she responded simply, “Doing my job, as I’ve been doing for the last 14 years.”
For anyone interested in going into politics, Foxx sometimes allows people to shadow her in Washington D.C. during her workday. She also gave some great advice to people who are interested in becoming politicians. “Start at the local level, do internships,” said Foxx.
Having Virginia Foxx at our school is a huge deal, and should not be taken for granted by the students. However, you may be wondering, what are we supposed to get out of these visits? “I hope you will remember … you are the drivers of the government,” said Foxx. She also added, “I hope you will be a little more interested (in politics/government), as a result.”
Editorial: The Lack of Mental Health Services for Teenagers and the Prevalence of School Shootings
By Jessica Zhong
One of the issues most frequently brought up in the aftermath of a school shooting is mental health.
We ask, “How could we have prevented this?” and fail to acknowledge the root of the problem, which is the accessibility of firearms and lack of mental health services for teenagers in the United States. Each issue is equally important and go hand-in-hand.
High school students have a school-associated violent death rate that is nearly 14 times higher than that of elementary school students, which could have to do with the fact that roughly half of all lifetime mental disorders start by the mid‐teens and three‐fourths by the mid‐20s.
It should also be considered that exposure to violence in schools can have an adverse impact on a student’s mental well-being, among other factors such as genetic predisposition to mental illnesses or the environment they are in.
Some gaps in child mental health care are economics, manpower, training, services, and policy. The point is that it is entirely possible to lower the probability of a school shooting occurring by mitigating the causes and effects of mental illness.
Notice we say “lower the probability” rather than “prevent.” Dual action is required to prevent a school shooting, and the other idea is that students can’t commit these crimes without a firearm.
Mental illness and gun control are intertwined in America’s gun laws. The very heart of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) is to prevent people that could potentially harm themselves or others from owning a firearm.
Up to 60% of perpetrators of mass shootings in the United States since 1970 displayed symptoms including acute paranoia, delusions, and depression before committing their crimes.
People decry gun laws for being too lenient and say the government must enforce stronger background checks and ban certain weapons. Others solely blame the perpetrator’s mental disorder as the cause for that particular shooting.
One could argue that a person has to be “crazy” in order to commit extreme acts of violence. Homicide offenders are more likely than victims to have expressed some form of suicidal behavior prior to the offense.
If suicidal ideation and mental illness are risk factors for violence, measures have to be taken to treat both. Not everyone can go to a therapist, and there is a stigma on mental illness that prevents people from talking about it.
Talk therapy is frequently cited as the most effective treatment for depression, personality disorders, and other mental disorders. There is a way to offer this to every student in a school: support groups.
Student support groups have done fairly well in high schools and universities. Information discussed remains confidential and the students benefit in that they know they aren’t alone in their problems.
Support groups can also result in giving students practical coping skills and reducing depression and anxiety.
NRA president Wayne LaPierre blamed “delusional killers” for gun violence in the United States. He called for a national registry of persons with mental illness.
As out-of-line as this statement is, LaPierre does have a point. This is where NICS comes in, which doesn’t allow people hospitalized for psychiatric reasons to purchase a gun. So LaPierre’s “solution” already exists to some extent. But not all hospitals report their patients to the background check system, and there are some other loopholes.
The law that states individuals whose “principal motive” is to make a profit need a Federal Firearms License (FFL). Anyone can sell a gun from their home, online, at a flea market or at a gun show without an FFL and the customer doesn’t need to complete a background check. Gifting guns also bypasses this law.
The “gun show loophole” is detrimental to the nation’s primary goal of only keeping guns in the hands of good people because background checks are not required. In fact, 1 in 5 gun transactions occur without one. Federal law allows sales to proceed by default if a background check isn’t completed within three days, even from licensed dealers. It goes without saying that our current background check system is inadequate.
Universal background checks would require all transactions to go through NICS. It would deter those with a criminal record or history of severe mental illness from obtaining a gun. This is not a foolproof plan in that most mass shooters pass background checks to acquire firearms.
However it couldn’t hurt to have universal background checks, especially considering how quickly a background check can be conducted (90 seconds). And it does work: In 2017 about 181,000 transactions were denied because the individual was prohibited from purchasing firearms.
Those individuals include people with severe mental illness as discussed before. The problem with society is the lack of knowledge of mental illness, creating stigma and causing less people to seek treatment.
In fact, a child or youth’s psychiatric disturbance isn’t what usually sends them to a mental health professional; social functioning, school-related issues, socioeconomic status, and other issues not always associated with mental illness can strongly influence referral.
Pediatricians are oftentimes the first people a child will disclose their psychological distress to, which stresses their role in children’s mental health and detecting signs early.
The first step in helping a person with a mental illness would be to realize there is a problem. After that it is a matter of having resources available to them, which may include talk therapy, medication (if the condition proves to be treatment-resistant to other therapies), or support groups.
If we were to implement support groups in schools, it would be beneficial to the students, but every school would differ slightly in the group’s structure.
At the NCLA, a small group of seniors will lead discussions, but will intervene minimally. There should be a separate group for middle schoolers and high schoolers due to size and age-appropriate topics for both groups.
A school support group has yet to exist, but when it does, we’ll follow up with the results.
And hopefully someday we’ll have no more shootings, but only when new legislation is passed.
This is a call for universal background checks that closes loopholes and a call for more support groups in schools.
US National Library of Medicine
What’s it like Working in the FBI?
By Brooke Bandy
Picture courtesy of ZLDDM
Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be an FBI agent? To work closely with the people who help to protect our nation?
The Federal Bureau of Investigation, more commonly known as the FBI, is a government agency that protects the people of America and the Constitution from “foreign intelligence operation” (fbi.gov), spying and cyber crimes. They also combat terrorism on the national and international level, as well as national white collar crimes, violent crimes, and criminal organizations here and abroad.
Getting into the FBI is definitely a process. You have to be at least 23, have a college degree, three years of work experience, and be a U.S. citizen. In order to be hired, there are many steps: an application, a test similar to the SAT, a formal interview with four current agents, a writing test, the fitness test, a drug test, a polygraph test, and finally, a huge background check (which could take up to a year).
The fitness test is one of the most known steps during the hiring process. There are four events, which consist of 1 minute of sit-ups, a 300 meter sprint, as many consecutive push-ups as you can do, then a 1.5 mile run. There is a five minute break between each event. You get scored on a scale 1-10 for each event and must have a minimum of 12 points total.
“I think the fitness test is a very challenging test,” says Matt O., a current FBI Special Agent and Fitness Advisor.
Matt is a supervisor of a counterintelligence and cyber squad. This means that they work to prevent espionage and spying.
“Right now, I am a supervisor of a squad, which a squad is our basic unit of agents that do investigations, and that’s the main thing the FBI does is investigate crimes, federal crimes, and what we would call threats to national security,” he says.
Prior to being a squad supervisor, he was a regular agent investigator, who are the people that open and work on cases and solve the crime. “This May will be 15 years, it’s hard to believe,” said Matt, talking about how long he’s been with the agency.
There are many jobs within the FBI one could look into. “Not everybody’s a special agent, I know in the movies that’s all they ever focus on, but there’s actually quite a few more employees in the FBI who are not agents, than those who are, and they do a lot of really good work that doesn’t really get recognized in those TV shows and movies,” said Kevin M., another FBI special agent.
Kevin specializes in counterterrorism, but there are many other opportunities if you wanted to go down the special agent path. “There’s various other things you can work as a special agent like white collar crime, or counterintelligence, or drugs, many different areas that you can choose from,” says Kevin.
Being a special agent requires some pretty good people skills. “One day you could be talking to a drug dealer, or a Congressman, the next day I might be talking to a neuroscientist, then the next day I might be talking to the ex-wife of someone who’s gotten themselves into some trouble, and all of those people have different motivations for why they might want to talk to us or might not, but the most important job of an FBI agent is to be able to talk to anyone under any circumstance,” said Matt.
Special agents sometimes have to travel for extended periods of time. “Right now, my job entails going overseas quite a bit, I’ve been to Iraq with the FBI as well as the army. Now I’m getting ready to go to southeast Asia for three months with the FBI,” said Kevin.
A misconception people get about the FBI is that they are trying to hurt certain political parties. “Almost everyone in the FBI wants to stay completely out of politics and just do investigations and take bad people off the streets,” said Matt.
Despite travelling and being away from home for so long, the effect of the work is very rewarding. “The stuff that we’re doing in my unit is very important and very impactful, so it makes you feel good about yourself because you’re doing work that really makes a difference,” says Kevin.
Being in the FBI has many ups and downs, but one thing remains consistent: their drive to protect America. “The thing that I like most about the FBI is the mission we have, which is basically to protect the American people, to protect the Constitution, and provide protection to citizens by whatever methods we need to. That is always done through some sort of investigation,” says Matt, “I’ve been fortunate to work with good people in every job I’ve had.”
If someone didn’t want to go into the federal law enforcement business but were interested in what the FBI does, state and local police stations might have special task forces that work closely with the FBI. Tom S., a Louisville Metro Police Officer, became one of these task force officers in 2004.
“I was never a federal agent,” he said, “I had all the powers of a federal agent.” At the federal level, FBI agents can only enforce federal laws, so if they need to arrest someone under a state law, they don’t have the authority. The state or local police come in and may be able to help arrest the suspect under a state law.
There was only one downside to working so closely with the FBI – paperwork. “We do a lot of police reports, but the FBI functions on a much higher level of documentation and you don’t do just one report of what you did, sometimes there’s three or four versions of that report depending on the information you get,” says Tom.
Sometimes, people watch TV shows about the FBI and automatically assume everything is correct and accurate. This is definitely not the case. “No, and I should preface that with saying that I don’t watch a whole lot of them because they’re so inaccurate, but the ones I have watched they don’t get right,” Kevin says, “They always show the FBI agents showing their badge and their gun. That’s almost never the case in real life. We try to hide the fact that we’re an FBI agent until it’s time to reveal that.”
They also show agents in suits only, but according to Kevin, they try to blend in as well as they can. “Anything I’ve ever seen is overdramatized … I’ve heard Quantico was awful and that it was nothing like Quantico, the FBI Academy, really. I’ve seen a couple episodes of White Collar, that’s okay, it’s about solving crimes, it is overdramatic,” says Matt.
Television also misrepresents the way FBI officers talk to the criminals or people they’re dealing with. “They’re also really disrespectful in the movies and TV shows in the way they talk to people. We’re very respectful and polite. We don’t berate the criminals when we’re talking to them and tell them how bad they are,” says Kevin.
Instead, the FBI agents talk very logically to the people they pick up and speak to them as people. “Unlike sometimes you see in the movies or tv shows, FBI agents are always very respectful to even the worst criminals. We’re very respectful to them, we’re very polite when we talk to them.” said Kevin.
Speaking respectfully and calmly to criminals or the people has its payoffs. “By the time we made it to the jail, in my car, she had invited me to eat at her restaurant in Hawaii because she was, I guess, taken aback by the respect that I showed her,” said Kevin, talking about a time he arrested a woman at an airport.
Overall, the FBI is a great long term career. They have a huge variety of jobs and fields one could go into. “The good thing is it’s really fun work, and really good work,” said Matt.
Meet the Editor
Hi! I’m Jessica and I am the editor/page designer for news. I will be attending the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in the fall and will hopefully pursue journalism in the future. Thank you for reading!