“School shootings are now more common than holidays.” – my 12-year-old son
By: Jamie Collins
My son, a twelve-year-old, who is in the sixth grade, spent several evenings last week studying for an upcoming math final. On Friday, the day of the “big” exam, he was seated at his desk in a middle school classroom, located in Carmel, Indiana, calculating the answers to math problems, when an announcement rang out on the school’s intercom. It was something along the lines of:
“We are sorry to inform you that there has been a shooting at Noblesville West Middle School. We do not believe there is an immediate threat to our school, but we are now on a ‘yellow’ level of alert.”
Apparently, red is the worst. Yellow is one stage below it. Yes, he is in Carmel and not Noblesville, Indiana. But he is in middle school. He is in Indiana. He is a student.
As my son sat at a school desk, trying to earn an “A” on his math final, he found himself grappling with troubling news of a nearby tragedy and the emotional overwhelm and worry flowing from it, that no sixth grade (or any other grade level, for that matter) child in America should ever have to experience. Am I safe? Is anything going to happen at my school? I wonder what happened? How many people were hurt? Did anyone die? Who shot them? How old was the shooter? Why did he do it? In all likelihood the adults who heard about this tragic news thought to themselves (after the initial, visceral reaction of, “Oh no…”):
“Why does this keep happening?”
“How many were shot or killed this time?”
These are questions to which we, as Americans, have become all too familiar with asking ourselves. While the sick feeling, sinking guts, and a blow to our hearts is still felt each and every time we hear this news, this is no longer unfathomable. Not anymore. These shootings continue to happen. And it’s not something that only happens “in other places, but not here.”
It puts parents, like me, in an untenable situation because the prior handful of conversations I’ve had with my son on the topic of school shootings usually go something like this, “I want to tell you this because I know you’ll hear about it anyway, but there was a shooting today at a school in _____ [name of state].” (This is the part of the conversation where you, as a parent, desperately try to help your child feel more secure, protected, and safe by telling him or her, “It happened in Florida…Michigan…Texas”…in other words, it happened in another state far, far away from here.)
But eventually, the school shooting does happen here, where your child goes to school each day, in your own state. Like it just did in our home state of Indiana. And there’s not a thing in the world you can verbally utter after that happens to make it somehow be okay for your child. Because it’s not okay. At all. You’re then forced to pivot to, “I just want you to know that if something like this ever did happen at your school, what today showed us is that the response would be immediate and powerful. The police officers would get there as fast as they possibly could to protect you guys. They have every resource available. They care and will get to you guys so fast.”
Let that sink in.
“If there’s a shooting at your school, they’ll get there as fast as they can.”
Do we all feel better now?
Because I don’t.
To the ears of a 12-year-old (or any age of child), there is no comfort in that statement. Quite frankly, how could there be?
America – We need to WAKE THE HELL UP.
Four-year-old little kids, like my best friend’s adorable daughter, are being taught how to do lockdown drills and the proper way to sit in preschool bathrooms quietly, with all the other four-year-olds, with the lights out, “so the bad man won’t come and get us.” There is nothing okay with children being terrified about being gunned down by crazy peers at their schools. But that’s where we find ourselves, as children and parents in America right now.
It is now a threat that is not only credible, but too frequently occurring, and entirely fathomable for every single student, and every single parent, grandparent, teacher, educator, friend, or relative, in the nation. THIS IS our America now. THIS IS what is happening. Again, and again, and again. This is the perpetual state of existence in which we, as well as our precious children, now find ourselves living–and there isn’t one single thing okay about it. But that’s where we’re at right now.
I’m not going to start an argument about the right to bear arms versus the proposal of common sense gun reform right now. It’s far too easy for us, as Americans and fellow parents, to get derailed from what truly matters, if we choose to head in that direction. I’m simply going to say that this is now a foreseeable act. I’m going to tell you that our children do not deserve this. Neither do we, as their parents. I’m going to remind you that every child who gives an interview on the evening news who had this happen at his or her school in recent weeks isn’t at all shocked by what transpired at his or her own school. The children affected now say things like, “I didn’t want to think that it could happen here. But I knew it could, or one day, would.”
Sit on that for a second.
“I knew one day it could happen here.” Here, as in, where YOU and YOUR CHILDREN live.
But what I want you to know is this: WE ARE NOT LISTENING.
We are hearing these words from the mouths of children tragedy, after tragedy, after tragedy. One school shooting, after the next. It is not just the children being shot who are affected. It is all of them. Every single student at every single school where this happens. And the children in all the other schools, too. They now know they could be the next ones to: Hear gunshots ringing out. Hide in closets. (Yes, freaking closets.) They could be the next ones to barricade doors with desks and backpacks to avoid death. The next ones to have teachers lock them into closets that only lock from the outside and to then slide the key underneath the door to them, as he or she–the brave teacher–remains in the classroom to await something that he or she should never have to await. Our children know that they may be the next ones to run out of school buildings, past SWAT teams and police men armed with assault-style weapons to protect them, and onto waiting school buses to eventually be reunited with their freaked-out parents.
What you need to know is this: Sitting on the couch, watching these news stories, and feeling sick over this issue isn’t going to fix it. If we were listening–actually, really, truly listening to these children, our children–we’d all be marching in the streets. We would all be calling the offices of our elected politicians today, and tomorrow, and every day after that. We’d be writing the emails or leaving the messages. We’d do everything in OUR power to help the political candidates get elected who actually give a damn that this is happening to our children in schools. And if Y-O-U haven’t done A-N-Y of these things today, and you don’t do any of them tomorrow: You. Aren’t. Listening.
Nothing will save your innocent children from being shot in school hallways or bleeding out in classrooms in America, IF YOU DON’T. Yes, you.
If you’re okay with brave school teachers taking off their belts to secure classroom doors in Indiana, or anywhere else in America, then I guess this post isn’t for you.
And if you’re okay with the perimeter of safety securing our children from potential human hunters consisting of simply the school desks and backpacks our students quickly pile against the closed, unsecured doors in their schools in Indiana, or elsewhere in America, this is not your problem.
If reading this post made you feel sick inside and made you think we might not be doing enough to give a damn about this crucial issue that affects us all, then you’re exactly who I’m talking to right now. You are a significant and powerful force and a vital part of the change that needs to take place in this great nation. It’s only going to happen if you and many others–parents, educators, teachers, grandparents, neighbors, friends, and children–like you, rise up. Speak up. Speak out. Take a stand. It’s only going to happen if you quit worrying about political fallout from “friends,” or those around you, and take a stand for your children.
The truth is pretty damn simple.
No one is going to protect your children–if you don’t.
(And if you’re okay with what’s currently going on in America, I’m pretty sure we aren’t friends.)
One Pissed Off Mom
If you’re as pissed off as I am, share this post. Send it on high. Make your voices heard. Make the calls. Write the emails and letters. Join an action group. Don’t be afraid to speak up. Don’t be afraid to STAND UP. Take action. The time is NOW.