Each morning you drop your child at school or the bus stop, kissing them or waving or just wishing them a good day. Maybe you argue about something stupid. Maybe they forget their lunch and you give them a hard time about it on the way to school.
Maybe something terrible happens and that’s the last exchange you have. A gunman comes to your child’s school and opens fire, killing students, teachers and anyone in their path.
Sounds crazy, but in Littleton, Colorado; Red Lake, Minnesota; West Paducah, Kentucky; Dunblane, Scotland; Jonesboro, Arkansas and, most recently, Chandon, Ohio, it has happened. It’s never been predictable and the shooters were unable to be stopped.
Sometimes it was an angry ex-boyfriend, seeking revenge on one of the teachers. Sometimes it was a boy who felt bullied and wanted to get back at the other students. And sometimes no one knew why it had happened at all.
If school is supposed to be “safe” how do you reconcile this as a parent? In the Clarkstown schools, they have increased security measures in the last several years. Most of the elementary schools are locked and a visitor needs to be buzzed into the building, with a security guard sitting near the entrance. In the middle school and high school, access is through one door and you need to check in with a security guard or teacher before you are admitted.
Even with all of this, it probably wouldn’t be difficult for someone to get a gun past them. We are not a community where our students are searched or forced to go through a metal detector every time they enter the school.
We all ached for the parents in Chandon, Ohio last month. That could have just as easily been our children. So how do we let our children out of our sight in a world that’s so unpredictable?
My daughter is about to head to college in the fall. How can I read about the shootings at Virginia Tech or Lauren Spierer’s disappearance in Indiana and still send my daughter away?
One of the Patch Moms Council members, Liz, expressed her concerns.
“As a parent, I want to introduce my kids to so many new things yet I want to protect them as well,” Liz said. “My kids are still pretty young, under seven years old, but their world is expanding and sometimes without me or my husband right there. Simple things, like carpooling, become an issue when you hear about drunk drivers with kids in the car."
"Or sleepovers at homes where you don't know the parents, siblings and anyone else that might be in the home," she said. "My husband and I acknowledge that we can't control everything but we can do our best to protect them. This might mean we make some decisions that are unpopular with our kids and we may be accused of being overprotective, but we can live with that.”
As much as I can make my kids aware of the dangers that are out there, if someone walks into their school with a gun, all the preparation in the world isn’t going to matter. Schools are certainly working hard to try to reduce bullying, as sometimes bullying victims are the people who snap and become violent.
But there’s another thing we can do—make sure that the United States has stricter gun laws. The harder it is for someone to obtain a weapon, the lower the possibility that they will use it. It doesn’t guarantee to eliminate the shootings entirely, but could serve to reduce them.
As parents, I think we just have to trust and hope that these events are rare and our children will be fine. Though, I do confess—I never let my children leave for school angry. Even if we argue most of the way to school, I’ll always end on something positive. Because as much as I believe they’re safe, a part of me still worries.