Last night (just a few short hours ago as it is very, very late – or very very early…) I was facing a problem over a situation that happened at our school on Saturday during a middle school basketball game.
Sometime during the game two vehicles were broken into – among the things stolen from one of them was a conceal/carry handgun in its case with at least 3 clips. I heard about this from another parent tonight while I was at work.
Our administrators at the time did not search the school or the surrounding area (meaning the high school next door, other vehicles, trashcans etc.) The sheriff deputy who took the report did not initiate a search either.
Immediately, my red flags go up; it’s too soon I tell myself – no one would dare try something like the Connecticut school shooting here would they?
But why wouldn’t they? The environment is ripe for copycat shooters.
I’m sure Sandy Hook Elementary thought they would never be victims either, yet here we are mourning children who are forever gone.
The other parent told me that she had emailed the school guidance counselor with her concerns. The counselor got back to her with a very “generic press release type” email ensuring her that our district had things under control, there was nothing to worry about, that there were measures in place for anything that would happen. She pressed on with another email and then phone calls to other parents.
Every school says that “protocols are in place”. Every school now has a plan. We don’t need a plan. We need to know if our kids are safe on Monday morning. We need to know if we should hold our breath as we drop them off in the circle or hug them harder when the board the bus. We need to know if our school has literally exhausted every possible avenue to protect our children.
In short, we didn’t feel that way. What happened next was a barrage of phone calls to other friends, and they in turn called their parent friends.
The parent contacted the sheriff’s office on Sunday before emailing the school – they told her little except no search was done and that the deputy on duty was not in today – he would be in tomorrow. Oh, and the firearm had not been recovered.
I’ve been told that our school has poor surveillance – the cameras do not adequately cover the parking lot – one in fact does not face it at all. It faces a concession stand.
Yet as I was driving home from work, a district wide text message was sent out letting us know that there would be deputies and administrators on site the next two days and that more information is on our school website.
Here is that letter:
Parents, students, colleagues, and community members:
I confirmed with the Sheriff’s Dept. this afternoon that a purse, money, and a (carry/conceal) handgun were stolen from two private vehicles at the Saturday Middle School basketball game. School officials are working with the (omitted) County Sheriff Dept. in capturing the culprits through video surveillance. As a precaution, the middle school building – including lockers and trash receptacles – have already been searched, finding nothing. It is likely the thief or thieves took the money and gun elsewhere. As it was described to me it is unlikely the thief intended to or knew that he/she had stolen the gun, since it was in a case and the entire case was taken.
I urge parents and students to not over-react to this theft or to panic. However, you have a right to be made aware of this information. You also have the right to keep your child home should you choose to. I want to assure you that school administrators and police officials, in addition to our staff will be visible throughout the day in all of our three school buildings. The school district is taking precautions and will monitor students and the main school entrance of each building throughout the school day as well in an effort to ensure the safety of our children.
As a measure of security, response to last Friday’s Connecticut tragedy, and as a precaution to the incident mentioned above a full-time Sheriff Deputy will be in (Omitted) Schools most of the day Monday and we will also have a reserve officer for the entire school day Monday. A full-time deputy will also be at the Band Concert Monday evening. I am also making arrangements for an officer to be in the district Tuesday all day as well.
It is unfortunate that such a blessed season of joy and celebration has been marginalized by the terrible and illegal acts of others.
To me, this comes almost too late and it seems that it only comes after enough parents raised enough noise to make it happen. It feels forced, as if to placate and talk down to parents who have legitimate concerns over what transpired at the school on Saturday and what is being done now. I also feel that the visiting school district from that basketball game be made aware of what happened as well.
There are too many variables to not react.
We should not have to berate our school with phone calls and emails to ensure that our children are safe but sadly it seems that that’s what is happening. I’m disappointed that my friend had to do exactly that; rally the troops to make sure our children weren’t in danger.
I understand that they don’t want us to over-react or panic, but let me ask; what expectations would you have of your school if you were in our shoes? As I told my friend on the phone tonight, I would rather panic and raise a fuss and stink and be WRONG than sit by, afraid to speak up against the administration, do nothing and BE RIGHT. To be right would feel as if blood was on my hands and I can’t sit and be quiet. To be wrong would mean a moment of sheepish “well you never know” and thanking the school for stepping up the security in a time when emotions are running raw and high. I would rather be sheepish and wrong than right and burying a child.
I spoke to my husband who was at work, who had me read the email and recount my conversation with my friend who was present when the deputy was taking statements and writing up the report from the theft. He takes issue with the statement about the gun case. Any gun owner will tell you that gun cases are distinct. You know you’re not holding a regular lock box or case when you have a gun case. Not to mention, they can be broken into given the right amount of force and a hammer (others have told me this as well).
The timeline for the searching doesn’t add up as well. The school and sheriff’s department would have had to pull a great number of resources to adequately search the school, lockers, grounds, trash cans, etc and then converge to confirm that nothing had been found (plus write the email telling us so). It just doesn’t add up to me.
What disturbed just as much was the conversation I had with a friend, I asked simply, “what would you do?” I got answers. Probably not the ones I was searching for. What I needed in that moment was validation, acceptance and a friend who has children as I do and understand the need to feel as though her children were safe. I got some of that.
I also got, “My kids don’t go to your kids’ school so…” so that to me means that you can put yourself in my shoes. Your kids feel safe, you feel safe with where your kids are So… your kids aren’t mine and the concern for their safety isn’t as high.
That’s what I took away from the conversation and it pained me. If the roles were reversed, I would be as up in arms as my friend and worried about her children as if they were my own.
You? I would worry about your child just as much because I feel like regardless of whose schools have the right resources and whose do not; we are all in this together. We are fighting something we don’t understand: One group will lay blame to stricter gun laws and another will lay blame to the lack of proper mental health care. Sadly, neither group is wrong. But your child’s safety is as much a concern to me as my own. And it cuts me as a mother and a friend, virtual or face to face that the feeling does not go both ways.
While my heart and mind are heavy, their father and I decided to send the kids to school. They want to go – they have projects to turn in, fun to be had, “free days” full of movies, class parties and visiting with friends before the break.
I did talk with them first about it, about allowing them to go to school. I explained what I expected them to do – both their dad and I want them to take every rumor, side handed comment about anyone considering an act like the one at Sandy Hook Elementary and report it directly to the office and then call me – I will be there to remove them all from school. My husband’s bigger concern is not on the heels of Sandy Hook, but after the dust has settled, when the disturbed and unstable feel that we’ve all gone back to breathing easier…
I asked my kids the unthinkable: Please do not be a hero. If something happens, get out.
My heart and mind have agonized over this. Do I feel that they are 110 percent, without a doubt safe? No. But we live in a world now where nothing is safe and I have to let them be kids.
I want bag searches at our schools. I want one door in and out instead of the multiple doors that kids go into (depending on their grade and the bus line up). I want the school to be inconvenienced and take these extra precautions because the extra time it takes to funnel the kids in and out of one door and search their bags and persons could mean the difference between a safe place for a child to learn and becoming Columbine or Sandy Hook.
Tomorrow, every parent I know will be on high alert as they drop their kids at school or kiss them goodbye as the bus comes or they get into their cars and drive off to class… I want our school to be on just as high alert as we all are. It’s not unreasonable and it’s not placating. It’s the right thing to do. Ensure our kids are safe. Take extra precautions and then take 10 more precautions. Check and double check.
Please tell me, what are your thoughts? Do you feel your kids are safe at school today?
image via dosomething.org