Shocked was I when I heard about yet another school shooting. In California, another distraught and confused youngster, 16 years old, entered his school and shot and killed classmates. It happened during what the school calls Zero Hour’. What is most hoped for is that, at that hour, there were zero incidents in that learning environment.
Right now, America is operating in reactive mode. Surprised, confused, sad, angry, hurt and dead, all certainly descriptors in the aftermath. By this time, one would hope that we would be more proactive, doing more acting than talking, and preventing these types of tragedies from reoccurring in the U.S.
When we speak about gun violence in this country, we usually refer to the violence plaguing the inner-cities, where the poorest and most dark complexioned people live. But, once again, the mass violence NEVER occurs in these communities, by those people. Violence is violence by any means. When violence is turned outward into society, an entire population, we are all forced to do something. We take notice;we have no other choice.
It is frightening to feel as though, at those moments, or any moment where mass violence is committed, it could have been you or I or our children. Why at school? What is it about the school setting that makes it attract such acts of violence? What makes kids feel safe enough to express their anger, frustration, hurt or emotions they themselves may not understand?
Schools are supposed to be safe and supportive environments. It is in school that children learn about themselves, society and their place in society. During the teen years, in particular, youth are struggling with emotional literacy, and they are struggling to be and feel accepted, love, recognized and validated.
It is disturbing to know that the persons who commit these ‘unthinkable’ acts, walk among adults and their peers at least 5 days a week. But, no one saw, suspected, feared a powder keg rising? Not one teacher, janitor, counselor, principal noticed any signs prior to the explosion. If someone did notice a change in demeanor, and said nothing to someone else, then the title of ‘Professional’ is erroneously placed.
This is not to diminish the roles of educators in schools. Their jobs are challenging, without a doubt. But, what is it about students in classrooms, walking the halls, riding the school bus everyday that allows us to miss signs of impending distress? Are we ignoring the signs, passing the buck or waiting for someone else to take action?
Are teachers thinking that they have much more to concern themselves with, that they decide to let it go? Too many tasks already. What about the parental role? Are we expecting parents to recognize and resolve issues before becoming critical?
Can we still, in good conscience, expect parents to be super parents and omniscient when it comes to their children? Their children are released into our care and custody for the bulk of the day. Most parents are at work, and they trust that, in the best interest of their children, schools have their back. Communication is expected, not only when there are problems, but especially when there appears to be.
It’s better to contact a parent with information we have possibly misinterpreted, than not at all. Better to share observations, in the realm of being proactive, while seeking confirmation or finding that we’ve overreacted. Besides, it’s not what we say, but how we say it. As a parent, I would prefer to know that, no matter what, someone is paying attention. My kid is not just a number or face in the crowd. Knowing that would communicate to me that my child will be getting a good education in that environment, because someone’s paying attention.
I don’t know what it is about the predominantly white school communities, largely middle class, that gives children a sense of appropriateness to make the school their target of emotional outbursts of the violent types. Ironically enough, these communities are filled with adults who favor gun possession, and where, with relative ease, obtain guns legally. Guns are in the home, for protection or sport.
From whom are they protecting themselves? According to the news media, there is little to no crime in these communities, which makes no sense. Why feel the need for a gun when there is no crime in your backyard? One would expect the argument for weapons possession should be from people living in high crime areas. That makes sense. In these areas, guns can’t be bought legally, though. When the police approach them with weapons in their possession, it’s an arrest-able or shoot-able offense. In fact, even when there aren’t weapons, they get shot.[that’s a different argument]
Mothers don’t know about their sons having guns in the home or in their possession. On the other side of town, mothers have purchased these guns, for the family’s safety. How are these types of crimes made possible? None of it makes sense.
What is clear, though, is that a terrible tragedy befell many innocent families, and there is trauma throughout that community. Schools are being pleaded with to incorporate mental health screenings, discussions and SEL throughout the curriculum. Accompanying these efforts, family engagement needs to be embedded in the framework of education. It is not just for parents of students with special needs or IEPs. Every child has special needs.
America, what are we doing to, rather than for, our children, white children in particular, that they think solutions to problems are found down the barrel of a gun? Have we ever attempted to compare characteristics of school shooters to create a profile of those most likely to explode like this? Maybe, we would be better at recognizing when we should act when we knew the signs to look for, right? I need answers. Parents need answers, and our youth definitely need answers.