A student in our district posted images of himself with a gun and references to shooting up the school. What do we do when our own kids are threatened?
It was a post in the style you've seen all too often. A young, angry white boy sporting a rifle, making a nod to the latest school-related massacre. Posting an "April Fools Joke" about shooting up the school he attended. Except this time, the boy in question took aim at our school.
Our school's response was underwhelming, to say the least. They apparently deemed the boy "not a threat" after the police got involved—and it was determined the gun was under lock and key at a hunting camp several states away. The superintendent posted a short note on the school's website, and waited until the kids were already in school to blast out a robocall to high school parents. They failed to let the parents of kids in the younger grades know that anything had happened at all.
My response, when I finally checked my town's Facebook page and saw the posts from frantic and furious parents? Panic. My brain knew my kids would probably be just fine, but my heart was saying, "What if?" What if I leave my children there, and this kid takes his anger out on a different target? And then, the news headline came through about a young boy shooting himself at a school in Cleveland. And I shifted from regular old panic to pure, blind panic: I decided that my kids were coming home.
I wasn't alone, apparently, as many of the parents on the town's Facebook page had chosen to keep their children at home. Being late to the game meant racing around town to collect everyone.
I headed first to my daughter's middle school, where you have to be buzzed through two sets of heavy doors before you can even access the school's main entrance. But once you're in, there are only three sweet ladies to stop you from rushing past them to the rest of the school. I tried to picture the grandmotherly office manager or the school's young, energetic principal firing on a troubled teen. But they were trained to help young kids, not take them down. I can't imagine them doing it. I can't even imagine them stopping me if I was bound and determined to get past them.
As I waited for my daughter to come down from class, I started doing calculations on whether we could afford private school tuition (they don't have school shootings at private schools, do they?), or if I could somehow make homeschooling work (except my grasp on algebraic equations may have slipped in the couple of decades since I last really used it).
My daughter, however, was more relieved that my unannounced visit wasn't about a death in the family. And she seemed more panicked about missing algebra than she was about a potential threat. She decided to stay, and I took a deep breath and watched her walk away.
And I realized that even if I brought my girls home today, what's going to happen tomorrow—or the next day or the day after that? They have to go to school sometime. And I can't protect them forever, a lesson that's all too familiar here, where we could smell the smoke from the Twin Towers burning for weeks after 9/11.
But that won't stop me from doing my best to ensure that they're as safe as possible—by taking the fight to the school to ensure that the right safeguards are in place and that all parents are made aware of any threats made against the schools. By ensuring that reforms are put in place to keep guns out of the hands of those who seek to create devastation. And with the President and some key Congresspeople starting to make noise around bump stock bans and universal background checks, we may finally be on the road toward a day where parents won't have to worry every morning when they send their child to school.
After watching others who speak out against gun violence receive death threats, the author chose to remain anonymous.