I woke up this morning to another headlining story of a school shooting. This shooter managed to exceed other shooters in their mission to create the biggest bloodbath in a school shooting. Yep, our youth are in competition with one another over the most lives lost at their hands.
The Gradual Desensitization of School Shootings
Meanwhile, our country has been desensitized to kids losing their lives over gun violence. It’s another shooting on another day in another city. We find ourselves giving our kids an extra kiss at the morning bus stop with a silent hope to the universe that we see our kids return at the end of the day. That’s where we are America: We hope our children return to us after a day of learning at their schools. You see, the world we live in has shown us that this is no longer our guarantee. Too many news trucks have captured disturbing images of children of all ages, colors, cultures, backgrounds, ethnicities, and socioeconomic status emerge from their school buildings with their hands in the air. Their innocence has been stolen, their lives forever changed, their trust in America shaken. And those are the lucky.
Fingers are pointed and blame is tossed around. Mothers Against Violence compete with our 2nd amendment right to bear arms. Gun lovers believe teachers should bear the responsibility by keeping ammunition in their desk drawers next to post-it notes and pencils. All the while, administrators believe our government should aid in passing laws to keep our children safe. Everyone loosely talks about mental health awareness and how we need to “get crazy people off the streets,” yet that very verbiage describes all that is wrong with educating on mental health.
What “they” Say About School Shooting
Stand up and fight for what you believe in, they say. Yet it gets lost, because someone else is always there to offer a Facebook banter that leaves you defeated. What’s the point in standing up when you will quickly get shot down? What is the point in using words that fall upon deaf ears?
Know where your vote is going and what your politicians stand for, they say. That is only good until your politician is forced to vote for or against their party lines in an effort to make a deal on a different issue. The United States currently has so many impassioned differences amongst us that it is hard to choose which is the most prevalent in the moment of a vote.
Educate your kids at home and teach them to be kind, they say. That’s great, but that does little to keep your child safe when the world is bigger than your small house. The reality is that all kids are not created in the same environment. Life is tough, reality is tough, parents may be doing the best they know how to do and it isn’t enough to reach their child. Mental health issues exist. They are real. Kids are not getting the resources they deserve to be their most successful selves. Kids are bullied and pushed to their limits during a time in which their brains are not yet fully formed and their cerebral cortex has years before fully formed rational thinking. This isn’t an excuse for all of the sadness, but a scientific reality.
Talk to your kids about guns not being toys. How many parents at Parkland do you think had the talk with their children about not playing with guns? How many parents in Newtown told their children that guns are not toys and they should not be touched without learning how to properly use them first? Maybe the victims’ parents were ones that did their due diligence by checking to ensure there were not guns in the homes of their friends. Maybe the victims’ parents had guns within their own homes and had taken the necessary steps to teach their children how to safely operate a loaded weapon and treat it with the respect it deserves. All of those things became irrelevant when those same kids found themselves in a locked down school with a 19-year old. A 19-year old who did not respect the lives taken by his ability to legally obtain an assault weapon.
Even with all of the advice I keep reading from differing sides of opinions, it wasn’t enough. Will it matter what we teach our children? What if one of these heartbroken parents from Parkland, or Newtown, or Columbine told you that they did all of the things people are suggesting? Perhaps they researched politicians. Perhaps they spoke out against the laws they felt strongly for or against. Perhaps they taught their children to be inclusive and kind and considerate. It didn’t matter. Those parents watched the news unfold from their smart phones, all the while hoping and praying that they would see the children that they thought they had done everything right for. The reality is that you can do everything right as a parent and as an educator, and find yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong kid enrolled in your school or living in your zip code.
We live in a time when your white privilege can’t keep your child safe. Your expensive home mortgage will do nothing to keep deranged killers away from your first graders. You can research top schools and enroll your children in a building that has metal detectors and locked entries. You can be well educated, love your child, give your kid every access and opportunity imaginable, and it just won’t matter. As they say, where there is a will, there is a way. If someone wants to create harm upon others, I believe that harm will be done. Be it a school or a church, a mall or a movie theater, a restaurant or a busy city square. Evil exists.
Is Stopping School Violence Even an Option?
We as a nation cry for mental health curriculum and for schools to do more, yet each year funding is stripped from public schools. Teachers are tasked with math scores and reading at grade level or beyond, yet told to create connections with each individual student that comes into their learning environment. Class sizes are going up, at the same rate as the opportunity for personal connections is going down. Teachers welcome children into their classrooms each fall that come from home lives some can’t imagine. They come from all walks of life, yet all are in the same classroom. Some are spoiled with all of the riches in the world, and sit next to a child that hasn’t eaten all weekend. Kids come wearing name brand shoes and their backpacks full of toys, while others spent the night before in a shelter. Parents spend thousands of dollars on quality healthcare (for both mind and body), and find themselves in a classroom of a child whose parents can’t afford those same services. The years go on and the children get older, yet their home lives stay the same. Whose job is it to bridge these gaps? Is it the teacher? Is it state elected officials? Is it federal government? No one seems to know the answer, they just just know to pass the blame elsewhere. We as a country have gotten so well versed in pointing fingers and pushing the blame to someone else, that we forgot how to be accountable.
Do you want your child to go to a god-fearing privately owned parochial school where evil doesn’t enter the doors? Evil is every where, my friends. Check with the family of the victims of Sutherland Springs or Charleston. Evil shows no boundaries or mercy. Troubled minds act with troubled hearts, and no zip code nor religious affiliation will do anything to keep you safe.
If you believe in the need for mental health awareness, then get real with the fact that it doesn’t only apply to your little circle. It doesn’t mean that your child should write thank you notes to grandparents for extravagant birthday gifts. It means that your child is responsible for reaching out to kids in the lunch room that are sitting by themselves. It means that you are responsible for teaching your child to be open to children who look, think, and act differently than them. It means that your child should not passively stand by and laugh as friends make comments about “the weird kid” in gym class. It means that you as a parent should not make snide comments about a person whose background may be different than yours. Teach your children to be open to those who speak different languages and dress differently than you do, by going up to those people and starting a conversation. Be tolerant of the person who cuts you off at the intersection. Be forgiving to the person who steals your parking spot at Target. Be gracious to the person with 32 items in the fast checkout lane at the grocery store. Teach your children that patience, understanding, and kindness can go a long way. Children listen. They watch closely. They learn from parents.
Now what about the kids that don’t reside in your home? What about the kids whose parents are working four jobs to make ends meet and can’t be home to instill these lessons upon their children. What about the foster kids who have done nothing wrong other than finding themselves in vulnerable situations? What about the children who are growing up without resources, without love, without hope? Whose responsibility are the kids that aren’t getting their basic social emotional needs met?
Whether you believe in the right to bear arms or common sense gun control, whether you believe in mental health funding or social-emotional curriculum in schools, can’t we all agree that our children deserve more? Can’t we all agree that parents shouldn’t feel scared to send their children to school or to movie theaters, concerts or malls? I don’t have the answers or solutions, but I also don’t have the heart to continue to hear about the mass murdering of children in our schools. I don’t have the answers, but also feel strongly that we need to stop bantering everyone else’s ideas on how to fix the problem. Maybe, just maybe, we could stop getting defensive when people bring this topic up and LISTEN TO OTHERS. We haven’t gotten anywhere by closing our minds to others’ opinions, so perhaps listening without pent up anger might move us closer to a conversation that will heal our broken country and save our children.
“Thoughts and prayers” are a start, but those actions simply aren’t enough. They aren’t changing the world we live in. They aren’t keeping our children safe. We need more than thoughts for communities across the country. We need more than prayer for our youth. We need change. And we need it fast.