After the horrific shootings in Florida, it didn’t occur to me to keep my kids home from school.
By the middle of the week, though, I was hearing talk from parents explaining why they weren’t sending their kids to school this week. There were several online discussion groups citing concerns about school safety in my community.
It took me a few days to assess my own response to this most recent shooting. I’m not exactly a relaxed mom. I’m the crazy woman putting lifejackets on other people’s children at the lake. I have to fight the urge to lock all my kids in the house in order to keep them safe. I engage in spiritual warfare against fear every single day. Releasing my kids doesn’t come naturally to me. So, why were my kids back at school? Was it simply because that is our family’s habit and routine?
My kids are at three different schools in our town. Late last week, there was a threatening message left in the bathroom at my daughter’s high school that prompted the administration to call the sheriff and send an announcement out to parents. In some ways, our local high schools are pretty risky. This is a gun-heavy community. You can walk straight into a hallway full of students changing classes before you even get to the front office. There are a good number of angry, disenfranchised white dudes in our community. Also, being in a rural community may give many of us an unrealistic sense of security.
Especially in light of my looking at our schools through this lens, why in the world are my kids at school?
When all is said and done, it comes down to the fact that I trust their teachers with all of my heart.
I trust these teachers because teaching is their life’s work. Every single school day, they are living into a calling that they take very seriously, even though they don’t get the monetary compensation or the universal respect that they deserve. Teachers are the people that I want influencing my children as much as possible, especially in light of the uncertainty in our world.
These teachers, though, are not Navy Seals. The idea that they should be armed is ludicrous; more guns is not the answer. I am not sending my kids to school with the expectation that their teachers should possess the skill set of undercover police. We are failing our teachers when we place the safety of students solely on their shoulders.
All of our lives have changed since mass shootings became part of our national story. I look for second exits when I walk into a small space. I assume that there’s a good chance at most athletic events that someone has a gun. Starting in kindergarten, my kids have practiced active shooter drills at their schools. This breaks my heart and also infuriates me, but this is the world we now live in and their schools are trying to prepare them for the worst-case scenario.
I think it’s a bit disingenuous to say that schools are unsafe for our children without also acknowledging that the whole country is unsafe for our children. If we stop sending our children to school because of the risk of mass shootings, then we also have to stop sending them to movie theaters, churches, community centers, outdoor concerts and all the other places where gunmen have opened fire on innocent people. Schools aren’t the only unsafe venue. The whole country is unsafe because the NRA is calling the shots and as citizens, we haven’t been able to stop them.
However, I sense a tidal shift in sensible gun reform. I hear a call for real change from student survivors at these schools. I see students organizing and protesting; I see administrators and community leaders in full support of these brave students.
I also see determined and committed teachers who refuse to walk away from educating and empowering our kids. As long as the teachers keep showing up, so will my kids.