Sorry for the length, but I didn't have time to write a short blog.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Living in Fear

Since Columbine and probably a variety of other school related incidents that have made the news, we have become a society that lives in fear in an almost extremist way. Statistically, schools are still one of the safest places for kids but…

On the bathroom walls, someone scrawled a thin threat in small print and pencil and badly spelled. It happens. It happens every few years just before Columbine anniversary. It happens because it is also Hitler’s birthday and few think it’s cool or shocking to say what a "great man" this madman was…but for the most part they don’t believe it or they are just to dumb to realize the impact of praising this monster. They are flexing their childish "individuality."  It happens because it is national “pot day” yet another time of year for someone to kill brain cells. It happens because it gets attention and maybe a day off from school because scared mom or scared dad will keep them home.

The problem isn't that it happens. It happened before Columbine. It will happen even after the pain of Columbine fades in other parts of the country. When I first started teaching in my last school, there was a bomb threat. We cleared the school. You see bomb threats could clear a building and were definitely more substantial than an obscure threat on a bathroom stall. After a bit, it got close to end of school time, and teachers went back into the building to get jackets and backpacks for the kids.  We did it because we were unafraid the bomb threat was real.  We did it because the kids needed their stuff.  Why did it happen? It happened because it got the person anonymous attention. It happened because it got the person out of school. It happened because he thought it was a clever joke. It happened again.

This time though there was something new. There was something that hadn't existed before. It was caller ID. A service that at the time actually cost money and only a few larger organizations paid for. The call came and the number identified. It was a pay phone at the end of the hall. The secretary who took the call, saw the number, leaned out the window of the office and looked down the hall at the student using the phone. He was expelled and charges were filed. It happened because he wanted out of PE.

And then it all changed.  There were school shootings. There had been shootings before. They date back to the 1700's.  But things had changed.  People had grown fearful.  It was probably because of the growth of information and that it could be shared in the blink of an eye.  Stories and pictures and news both real and fictitious came to our homes in seconds.  And then there was Columbine...

Then day before Columbine’s anniversary, someone wrote a threat. We sent letters home and we posted it on the school website. We made sure that everyone knew we had an idea who had done it and that even the police believed the threat was far from credible. It had happened before and again we sent letters home and told people we were on heightened awareness and that there was no real credible threat ; just scribbles on a bathroom stall. 

It happened and people kept their kids home because they live in fear. They let those bastards win. They didn't stand up and say, “No more!” They didn't come to school with their child to defy some little foolish jerk who misspelled a threat. Instead, they stayed home and cowered. They live in fear from ink on a bathroom wall. Even in Columbine, they discovered the attackers had done more than write a threat on a bathroom wall. It happened and people lived frightened of graffiti.

"All we have to fear is fear, itself."   -Franklin Delano Roosevelt.