Trigger warnings con: Students remain silenced and schools remain sheltered

Cortney Chow, Editor-in-Chief

Bombs are exploding, casualties are accumulating, and it seems as if the end of the world is dawning. While most students are watching the screen, taking notes, and engaging in discussion, there is an empty seat in history class. Exactly why is there a vacant seat? Because the student was excused from witnessing such content. The subject of war and any controversial issue may “trigger” traumatic experiences and feelings, but should schools implement trigger warnings if it sacrifices an environment of inclusiveness, diversity, and challenging discourse? Absolutely not.


Trigger warning, as defined by, is a stated warning that the content of a text, video, etc., may upset or offend some people, especially those who have previously experienced a related trauma. However, trigger warnings are also a method of sheltering students and should be abandoned by school systems  immediately. Instead of creating an environment for thought provoking input, schools are creating “safe spaces” for students so that they do not have to engage in discussions centered around controversial issues. This takes away from a campus that strives to be progressive and inclusive. Instead of accommodating for social issues, schools are hindering their ability to involve the entire student body. In fact, if a student knows that there will be content discussed in a class that they will not be able to mentally handle, don’t take the class. Having a group of students being dismissed during class sets an example to their peers that it is okay to avoid topics that cause discomfort. If students keep utilizing these safe spaces, this will become a crutch and impede students’ abilities to challenge their knowledge. In extreme cases, trigger warnings should only be set in place for a student if he/she exhibits  PTSD or if their reaction to the content will cause violence to other students and/or trigger a mental breakdown. The rule of trigger warnings should not be applied to all students because it will be their way to escape uncomfortable discussions.


In a sense, trigger warnings have become an indirect type of censorship for any student’s education. For instance, teachers will shape their teaching style and content to accommodate for students that feel “triggered” by a certain topic. By using trigger warnings, there will be specific discussions and topics that will be avoided for the sake of helping students that feel inflicted.  However, schools should not work toward protecting students but exposing them. Once students start understanding that it is “okay” to talk about controversial issues, this puts them one step closer to helping the world foster openness and acceptance. A school that sees the importance of this is the University of Chicago, a highly acclaimed university.. As mentioned in their welcome letter when they banned trigger warnings, “members are encouraged to speak, write, listen, challenge and learn, without fear of censorship.” This letter sparked controversy because people felt as if they were making people with PTSD vulnerable. However, this is the mindset that all schools need to adopt if people truly want progress and change. Trigger warnings only serve a purpose to silent the student body and create a sheltered community, thus, there is truly no freedom of expression with trigger warnings intact.