Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Archive for the category “Bullying”

The Numbness Of School Violence

The phone call is a parent’s worst nightmare.  A robocall from the school district…

“This afternoon, there was a lock down at the school.  A student was observed with a weapon.  Police were called.  The student apprehended.  The lock down was lifted.  The students are safe.”

The message was actually more detailed and lengthy.  It seems that a student had chosen to bring a BB gun into the school.  He was seen taking it from his back pack and placing it in his locker on video surveillance.  Further investigations would reveal two other such weapons.  The student had gotten away with it at least one other time, if not twice.

Sure, the weapons were only BB guns, not normally the weapons chosen for maximum carnage, but there are two other factors to take into consideration.  I have lost count, but this is either the 3rd or 4th “lock down” this year alone at the suburban school.  Another thing that concerned me, it was reported shortly after, that an actual school shooting had occurred in Colorado just miles away from Columbine, where the first notorious mass school shooting had occurred decades ago.

I had only recently become aware of something called “the dark web”.  It is a different section of the internet, known by many of our youth.  Were the situations of my daughters’ school lock down and the shooting in Colorado something coordinated through “the dark web?”  Perhaps not.  At this point, we parents are still waiting for the “why” this student had brought 3 BB guns to the school.  And because I do not know the facts, I am barely refraining from judgement, barely because this was just too close to home.  Because it is important to know, was this the act of just a stupid kid, planning on doing some target practice with some buddies after school?  Or was it a “dry run” by someone upset, to see if he could be successful bringing weapons on to school grounds?

But right now, all we were encouraged as parents to do, was to talk with our children about the day’s events.  I am not sure who this is supposed to benefit.  The worried parents, or the numb students who simply chalk up yet another “lock down” as “just another day at school,” and another day still alive.  Yay.

This post is not about gun control or choice of weapons.  The truth is, that discussion has been going on since Columbine, and even the unthinkable Sandy Hook massacre was unable to bring our country together, let alone our government.

Here is the staggering numbers, as provided by research done by CNN last year, 288 school shootings in the US since 2009 through 2018.  Surely this cannot be a statistic unique to the US.  Or can it?  CNN compared the US to the 6 other major industrial countries who made up the G7, for those who do not know what countries made up the G7… Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Italy, and England.  Here are the numbers:

United States     288

Canada                     2

France                       2

Germany                   1

Japan                         0

Italy                            0

England                      0

The countries that make up the G7, are assumed to be the most advanced, democratic (not to be confused with the Democratic party), the most concerned countries when it comes to human rights.  “The United States  had 57 times as many shootings as the other major industrialized nations combined,” was how the headline read on CNN’s Facebook page on May 21, 2018.

Again, I am not making this post about bureaucratic bullshit with excuses like, different size country, different laws, yada yada yada.  The answer often given, need more guns also clearly falls way short as these other industrialized nations do not have a gun inventory problem.  Yet here in Florida, state government has approved a policy to allow teachers to now carry guns in school.  Imagine, they can now carry a gun, when they often cannot get educational supplies.  Priorities.

This post is not about spinning wheels and talking points.  We now have only two other relatively new concepts that may offer some hope, yet one of those is completely unacceptable, because it accepts martyrdom as the solution, in other words, expect a student to die a hero throwing themselves at a shooter.  I will explain.

I was returning home from my visit with my daughters, which occurred just days after this current lock down.  I was at the airport, when I learned my flight was delayed.  As people often do, once realizing we are going to be waiting longer, we need to entertain ourselves to make the time pass.  The unlucky person being chosen to talk to me, just so happened to be a “School Resource Officer.”

An SRO is normally either a retired cop, or active cop.  And yes, they are armed.  But more and more schools are using this option to maintain safe schools.  Many schools have an entire force of SRO’s.

Having just gone through yet another “lock down” issue, being a former school board candidate who campaigned for safe schools as a major platform, I now had someone who had first hand experience and knowledge of what schools are facing today.  I appreciate that he was willing to talk to me openly.  But the one thing that I notice he did not talk about, nor do the school systems, and surprisingly, you rarely hear parents talk about, is the parental role in prevention.  I will get to that shortly.  But here is some of the conversation I had with the SRO:

Me:  why not install metal detectors?  They are used in courthouses, and airports.  Clearly they would work in schools preventing weapons from getting inside.

SRO:  Detectors are very valuable in detecting weapons.  But you are probably aware of the length of time it takes to go through detectors at courthouses and airports.  You are talking about thousands of children needing access, in time, to start the school day.  You would have to have students arrived hours before the start of day to get through the entrance.

Me:  One comment I heard on social media, was criticism of the students hiding, and in this case, for basically nothing more than BB guns.  Of course I told the asshole off, clearly not a parent for expecting a reaction to have been different without knowing if a real threat or not.

SRO:  In recent years, the best option considered for active shooter drills have been “run, hide, fight.”  Kids would secure themselves in their classrooms, hopefully out of view of the doorway, out of the risk of being hit by gunfire.  But in all honesty, at this point, the children become sitting ducks when they do this.  If the shooter is in the school, the thing that makes sense is to get out of the school as quickly as possible, away from the shooter.

SRO:  There is a new concept, an option called “ALICE”, which stands for Alert, Lock down, Inform, Counter, Evacuate.

It was when the SRO explained to me how ALICE worked that I realized what we have now put our children in a position they do not only not deserve, but should never be put in that position, of being a hero, taking a bullet for another classmate or more.  The philosophy is simple, better to lose one student, than many more.

SRO:  The first three steps that initiate with ALICE are basically the same as run, hide and fight.  But it is when you get to the point after “Inform”, “Counter” that the shit will get real.  Counter means no more hiding, the students keep running.  But someone must make the decision to counter, attack the shooter.  And if it means taking the bullet, to prevent other students from being killed, that student has done a heroic thing.

I could not believe what I heard.  A child, A CHILD, is supposed to make a life and death decision when we do not let them drink or smoke til they are 21, do not let them vote until they are 18, do not let them drive until they are 16… why?  Because they are not mature enough to handle those responsibilities, this guy wants a child to make that snap decision to go after the shooter.  First, even as an adult, any hesitation in a decision like that, will end tragically.  But to expect a child to execute “ALICE?”  Are you fucking kidding me?

To say the conversation was enlightening about assumptions that I had even made how to solve this issue, it is extremely heartbreaking to know that we are now at the point where we expect our children to sacrifice themselves, just because GOD DAMNED ADULTS REFUSE TO DO THEIR FUCKING JOBS AND KEEP OUR KIDS SAFE!!!!!!!!!

I ran out of time to continue our conversation, because it was my next question that probably could have offered a dialogue that could give ideas that have not been tried, and the one source that has NEVER been considered.

Me:  Why don’t we hear about parental involvement when it comes to these events?  I mean after all, there are always plenty of excuses from ignorance, to lack of time (no excuse if you are a parent, you make time for your child).  If this child at my daughters school is hurting, the parents surely need to know something.  And at the least, the parents of this child have failed in enforcing the fact, bringing weapons to school is unacceptable.  Why are parents being held accountable?  As is a possibility in the recent Colorado shooting, bullying and other offenses may have played a role, why are schools still not “zero tolerance” when it comes to bullying.  We have lived over and over and over, events culminating in violence just because bullying was ignored.  We are zero tolerance for weapons, why not for bullying?

SRO:  I really wish we could keep talking.  Your question is so spot on.  But the truth is, as long as there are lawyers willing to fight for the rights of the student and their education, parents would rather pay a lawyer to get their child out of the jam, rather than deal with their inefficiency of their parenting skills.  I know it is harsh, but too many parents have the “not my kid” syndrome.  So until we deal with parents, and making no excuses, because it takes less time to deal with your child, than it takes to make excuses why not, and to deal with the after effects of tragic decisions that get made.

And with that, the SRO left to board his plane, to see his children.  I know many other SRO’s in my life.  And I am very active with my daughters educations.  I am still in communication with the school district that my daughters attend.  It is my hope that some day, we will find that the answers to these school shootings and violence will come from where they start, with the student themselves, possibly at home, possibly at school.  We are wasting time arguing over gun rights and safety, which honestly I do not ever expect that argument to be solved in my lifetime.  The question is, how many more school shootings will there be before something is done.  Sandy Hook should have been the last one.  And we are no closer to solving anything than we were then, or Columbine.  The only difference is, now we are expecting our children to take a bullet, and are children get through their day as getting by without getting shot today.

Why does the record of the US with school shootings stand out compared to those other countries?


Are We Ever Going To Try?

Two headlines today.  One in a town of Pennsylvania.  The other occurred just miles away from the site of another massacre, decades ago.  The difference for me with this post, is one of these headlines affects me personally.  And really, it should not matter which headline it is, neither should have occurred.  But they did.  And as of this post, the Colorado shooting has now left one teenager dead, with 7 wounded.

Like many parents, I got the phone call this afternoon from the school district, announcing that the school that my daughters attend, had been in “lock down.”  Most of us have no idea what is involved in this condition because we do not get to see it, that is, unless you have seen the movie “8th Grade,” or seen it explained during a news telecast.

The recording came with details, that a student clearly between the grades of 7 through 9, was on security camera moving a BB gun into their locker.  Security, unable to determine the type of the weapon, acted swiftly, instituted the lock down, and notified the local police.  The student was apprehended, all students were declared safe, and the lock down was lifted.  It was later discovered that additional weapons had been found during search.  But the bottom line, a major crisis was averted, and even though the weapons may have been of the caliber of a BB gun, the fear and panic that could have resulted, could have resulted in tragedy itself.

In Colorado, the assailants entered the school, deep into the school, eerily it seems similar to Columbine, wounding several, now officially killing one teenager.

This post is NOT about gun control.  We all know that neither side of the argument is not going to go anywhere with that discussion.  The slaughter of children at Sandy Hook we all swore would finally bring us to the point that we had to do something.  And our country failed.  Again and again and again.

I have some experience behind the scenes with the school district that my daughters attend.  I know the efforts that are taken to secure the safety of students.

I campaigned as a school board candidate the year of the Sandy Hook massacre.  That tragedy was actually one issue that all candidates agreed on, that needed to be dealt with, at all costs.  In fact, later that year, the district held a forum to inform the community and families of the efforts the district took to makes sure students were safe.

Personally, at the time, my daughters were in elementary school themselves.  Of several things that I learned while campaigning, attending school board meetings, and attending “safe school” committee meetings, I learned of the evacuation plans, mustering plans, but also something else, that needed to be dealt with immediately, the access to the building at the main entrance.

Many schools today, hopefully all, have electronic entrances, you need to be “buzzed” in once identified, while all other doors remain secured.  The problem with my daughters elementary school at the time, the monitor used to view the person entering, was of such poor quality and small size, the person would have to be admitted pretty much on an honor system.  And by then, our school would have been at a similar risk for tragedy.  This was one of the first things addressed and corrected.  The fact is, the district has taken many more steps to secure our schools and keep the children safe.

The technology worked.  The trained staff acted accordingly with swift response.  Local authorities responded within minutes.  The suspect was apprehended.  Everything worked exactly as it should have, and without tragedy.

Yet even with everything we, as adults know, about the efforts to keep our schools safe, there are still certain students, in spite of methods to intercept weapons, still attempt to bring them into the schools.  And yes, with a BB gun, fatalities may not have been likely, but definitely harm could have been done.  And because our district has done all it can to prevent, plan, and respond, that means the rest falls on one other entity, the parent.

In my years of campaigning for school board, and since, the one thing I hear no conversations about, are what can parents do to prevent events like this.  There is always ridicule about the parents on Facebook or news stories and what they should have done, followed by defenders of those same parents snapping back that we do not know what their home life is like.  And there it is.  The only one who knows what is going on in the home, is the parent.  The parent is the one who needs to be aware if their child is emotionally hurting.  The parent is the one who needs to know about weapons that their child may have access to.  And this final thing should not be that hard to do, the parent needs to explain, on a regular basis, that it is wrong to bring any weapon, toy or real, to school.  The parent needs to explain the consequences for making such a horrible decision.

Yes, parental accountability.  It is the one thing that has not been discussed even 10% as much as gun control is raised with each school shooting.  The districts do what they can to keep our children safe.  Local law enforcement trains to respond to active shooters at schools.  But the only ones having no part in this conversation, are the parents themselves.

And I would encourage every parent to attend a school board meeting, and raise this issue.  As the deputy sheriff in Colorado stated basically that the area and school is low crime, a good place, also known as “won’t happen here town”, it can happen anywhere.  And while my children, along with their classmates followed orders during this lock down, not knowing if it was a life or death situation, I should not have to keep having these “after it happens” conversations just because parents do not want to talk to their kids before it happens.

I am relieved that today was resolved without anyone being hurt.  But my heart aches, for yet another school shooting that did result in injuries and death.  Time for the parents to be a part of the safety plan.

When Race Hits Home

A strange way to start a post, but here it goes.  I grew up as a child in a “white only” (as far as I knew) neighborhood, attended high school as a minority, and clearly I have two daughters who are Asian.  I did not grow up paying attention to anyone’s appearance because it may have been a different color than my skin.  I have moments that I am not “PC” (politically correct), but at the same point, do not get offended when it gets pointed out that I may have said something that was misinterpreted.  I do not and have not used racial slurs, well because that is not how I was raised.  Growing up in the 70’s and 80’s, I watched the Jeffersons, All In The Family, Blazing Saddles, enjoyed Richard Pryor.  But I also detested any acts of racism.

Throughout the 90’s, and in charge of a church youth group in a small urban area, where racism was more prevalent, in fact very near KKK populated areas, I spent a lot of time teaching the youth to go against the urge to follow their grandparents (and in some cases their parents) when it came to thoughts against anyone who was not white.  It has been a slow process to dealing with racism, but I had always hoped that we would keep moving forward with eliminating it.

This post is not about racism itself, or the history of it, but rather an unfortunate phenomenon that we are currently dealing with today.  Most of us were all outraged by what happened in Charlottesville a couple of years ago, and our response was to condemn, yet again, all acts of hatred against races.  But there seems to be a problem.  How do we condemn one act or philosophy, that then seemingly affects something that we held personally as something of our past?  How do we expect racism to be dealt with, when we ridicule moments of history that we stumble across, bringing down someone or something that we once held in high regard?  How can we be expected to condemn one thing and forgive another, and really, who is to decide?

The answers are not simple at all.  In fact, in recent years, dealing with racism has gotten more complicated.  And admittedly over the last two years, a certain population has felt emboldened to step into the spotlight to reignite the fears, anger, and hurt, that over the decades we had fought to correct.  Right now, whether on Facebook or in person, we are now having conversations with our friends over statues and monuments, movies, music, that in retrospect, were really racist in content.  But in our earlier years, it was not a big issue, whether because it did not affect us, or we just did not pay attention.

But part of dealing with racism, just as I did with the youth group, we spent a lot of time teaching children racism was wrong.  Well, those children are now growing up, with the values we raised in them, and because they have technology that we did not have growing up, they have tools to fight racism that we did not.  The problem with that, the racism was not as obvious to some of us, as it clearly is to the current generation.

And it is not fair to refer to this generation as “snowflakes” as is common.  In fact, those that complain about this generation are “snowflakes” themselves for complaining about what they created.  Because we chose to fight racism, we created a generation who is ready to take it to the next level.  And really, if we are ever continue to move forward, dialogue now needs continue.  The generation needs to understand how we grew up and what we were exposed to, just as the American history that they have learned.

Like I said, music, movies, television, and other things in our life, we hold certain examples sacred.  And we are devastated and hurt, when one of our favorites falls, no matter the transgression.  For the purposes of this post, I am going to use a current example.

Kate Smith.  An icon if you are a Philadelphia Flyers hockey fan.  Known for her stunning rendition of “God Bless America” that she sang prior to a Flyers championship game, which quickly grew to a tradition played before all Flyers home playoff games, even long after her passing.

The performance had nothing to do with patriotism, though clearly the song was very patriotic.  But whether live or video, Kate fired up the fans, no matter what the odds were for or against the Flyers.  Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the Yankees baseball stadium would also adopt Kate Smith’s “God Bless America”, though clearly meant to bring us all together.  And that really was where this had really ended.  On a side note, I am family with a personal family connection to Kate Smith, but since I was a child, I do not recall the details, well, because I was stupid and did not care.

But again, for the last two decades, we have been raising our children to fight against racism.  And no matter what some may do to quash history because they feel it makes our country look bad because of the things our ancestors did, this current generation is intent on wiping out racism.  And I can appreciate what they are doing.  Because when you think about, my generation has failed.  And we are proving that by the way we are not only complaining about “discoveries”, but how we are doing it.  And at this point, arguments are now occurring between us, regardless of color, but more geared towards protecting something we once held dear to us.

Kate Smith was a racist.  That is a fact that has been discovered.  Was she always a racist?  We do not know.  But at least for a moment in her life and career, she wrote and sang at least one very offensive  song that nearly all of us were unaware of ever existed.  And honestly, I do have to ask, what was actually put into Google search to find out about Kate Smith.  I am fairly certain that today’s youth really have no idea who she was.  But that does not take away the transgression what Kate Smith did.  To counter that, of course, all of the good things that she did for our country and for our military.  And she did.  And that should not be forgotten.  But neither should the period of racism she promoted.

So the question now becomes, “how long should it be held against someone for something they did long ago?  And given the benefit of the doubt, changed their thinking?  I am betting that there is not one family member of Kate Smith’s family that believes she was a racist.  They only know a loving mother and grandmother.  And here is my argument for that.

This is a picture of my maternal grandmother, the most influencial person in my life.  As I mentioned, I grew up in an area that just happened not to have any African Americans, though we did have one kid that was from India.  In any case, she was the most caring and loving person anyone could know.  All of the kids in the neighborhood looked to her as their “honorary” grandmother.  She would be the first person with cancer to survive that I would ever know, and give me the courage to fight my cancer.

But in recent years, it was revealed to me, that she had her tendencies to be racist.  I was shocked, and admittedly, clearly did not want the conversation to go any further.  I have to face it, given where I lived, I really never got to see any sign.  She never used any slurs.  And like I said, all I knew was her to be a loving person.  To this day, I want to remain in denial.  I only knew her one way.

So, I kind of get to a degree the outrage being felt right now after discovering what cannot be denied about someone that was held in such high regard.  But it does not change what she did.  And if we are ever going to reverse the trend of increased racial hatred, we have no choice but to listen to those that we raised to be tolerant.  They are the ones paying attention to the ones being hurt now, by the new racist attacks, whether verbal or physical.

It is disappointing sure, but the pain that it causes is worse.  And the fact that it is now pitting even friends against each other, one side fighting for something they hold close, the other for the values they were taught, we have gone backward in race relations.  And this does not even address the other issues of racism which I have intentionally not raised in this post.  Because before we can ever expect to heal or move forward once again, we need to be able to talk to each other.  And talking does not just mean speaking, but listening also.

And those memories are not gone, if you really want to hang on to them, the internet can take care of you.  But raising our children to fight against racism was a good thing.  Would you have not done it if you would have known you would have lost a favorite TV show, or could not listen to a favorite song anymore because it was boycotted or banned?  Of course not.  If you are a reader of “Paul’s Heart”, I know you are a compassionate and education person.

As for the Flyers and the Yankees, there will be other ways to fire up fans and show patriotism.  And it will not be long before this fuss is forgotten either.  But what will not be forgotten, are those that have been hurt, and why we still have such a far way to go, to dealing with racism.

I am to this day, still an avid Flyer fan.  And I understand why they removed her statue.  The recently discovered music was horrific to learn about.  And honestly, even in the 1970’s when she debuted the song at that Flyer’s game, even if it had been known then, I do not think she would have been stopped from singing it.  But this is not the 1970’s.  And just as we can recall what our grandparents were like and how they behaved, our children see how the times are now.  And all any of us want, is for everyone to get along, regardless of color.  Kate Smith is not the first, nor will she be the last, that will be shown to have held such ugly sentiments.  Can there be forgiveness?  Absolutely.  Should it be forgotten?  Absolutely not.

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