Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Archive for the tag “Parkland”

Time Has Run Out


Though this post can apply to the senseless violence as it occurs anywhere in our country, I am keeping the talking points strictly to that of the violence in our schools.

Twenty years ago, it was Columbine High School that the unthinkable occurred.  Two students walked into their high school and slaughtered or injured fellow classmates.  The shock and horror gripped our country, and the world.  Honestly, at the time, I never thought I would have seen another senseless massacre like Columbine.  And then over five years ago, Sandy Hook proved to us that violence in our schools would have no limit.  Five and six year olds, along with teachers were murdered.

Everyone was outraged.  Well, almost everyone.  There were those who felt backed into a corner who felt that instead of being concerned for the lives of our children, the bigger priority needed to be paid to constitutional rights, and if children died in the process, then it was a sacrifice that had to be made.  But surely, this would be the final straw to get us to pay attention to making our schools safe.  And to be fair, many schools did react.  But some did not for whatever their reason – denial, money, etc.

I remember when I campaigned for school board many years ago, it was right after Sandy Hook, and the investigation took place as to what possibly might have helped to prevent such a tragedy, from an engineering standpoint, was an issue that existed in my daughters’ elementary school.  Sure, most schools’ doors are locked, requiring electronic entry from a secretary inside of the office of the school.  But for many in this situation, the visual equipment was either insufficient or outdated, and upon entry through the doors, was the hallway, directly to the path of the classrooms.  Under normal circumstances, the camera lens of the security system might only have been able to view the face of someone entering, not what they might be carrying.  But my daughters’ school district made the changes necessary, and yes, it did cost money.

Sandy Hook was to be the wake up call.  But it was not.  In fact, school massacres are occurring at a horrific pace, and because we, as citizens, we, our government, we as parents, are not willing to do the right thing.  So, just a few months ago, another massacre, this time in Parkland, Florida, a movement has grown, this time led by students.  But as adults know, students are not given a voice, so students are ignored.  But if you listen to them, they do have solutions, and it is not all gun restrictions.  All the attention given to gun laws is a dog whistle, that we end up wearing blinders, refusing to look at anything else.  But just as has occurred EVERY time since, the energy, the momentum wanes, until the next massacre.  Now, we have Santa Fe, Texas.  Again, there are many more schools that have been witnessed to similar violence.  There seems no end in sight.

I hear many of my friends complain about “liberal Hollywood” or others who should really “stick to their acting or singing”.  Athletes should stick to their sports.  Well, our government is doing nothing to even slow the occurrence of these massacres let along stop them.

As a parent, I do have a voice in the fight.  And my opinion is just that, opinion.  Some of it is based on fact, which I will clearly state as fact.  But before I get into that, I want to make perfectly clear, while I may not understand certain aspects of gun ownership, I do support the 2nd amendment as well as the rest of the constitution.

Investigations Are Needed

I used to work for a large corporation.  And in my department, we had many accidents, some avoidable, some not.  But our safety record was a big concern.  And since all that seemed to be done, was writing one injury report after another, it was determined that maybe, we needed to form a committee to investigate, beyond what was being reported by the employee.  This committee would be charged with determining the root cause, was everything done possible, to avoid being injured, and of course possible corrections.

Sticking to the most recent event, two things stand out – the murderer (a student) was wearing a trench coat in Texas in ridiculous heat, and while the guns were legal, they were not handled appropriately.

The trench coat, also similarly used in Columbine, was able to conceal the weapons.  But the weapons did not belong to the student, and the parents definitely share in the responsibility for not having the weapons secured.  There are other factors coming out, but those are two of the biggest factors.

Acknowledge What Does Not Work

Are you offended by these two photos?  You should be.  You should be offended by the fact that we are willing to sacrifice our children.  You should be offended by the fact that the cycle repeats and repeats.  Even the president who called out members of Congress for not standing up to the gun lobby, would eventually cave after his tough talk.  In any case, this does not work.

Now I mentioned the need to investigate injuries that occurred in my work place, in an effort to reduce or eliminate injuries.  We need this same level of detail when it comes to this horrific epidemic.  And the only place it can start, is the one place that it is not allowed to, the Center For Disease Control And Prevention.  Why the CDC?  Because violence in schools, with the majority of the violence, gun related, is an epidemic.  It is a violent disease that needs to be stopped and prevented.   So, if what is needed is for the CDC to launch a study, why is not being done?  Our representatives passed a law many years ago, preventing the CDC from doing any studies relating to violence and guns.  Our government simply will not allow it.  And why?  The National Rifle Association (NRA) lobbies our government with ridiculous amounts of money under the guise of protecting the 2nd amendment.  But there is nothing in the 2nd amendment stating that the lives of innocent children and others must be sacrificed in order to do so.

The NRA at one time, was an honorable one, dedicated to gun safety and responsible gun ownership, the “good guy with a gun.”  And I do fault the NRA for not only enflaming these latest tragedies with their rhetoric, but I also blame them for not even attempting to come up with a solution or than the same old talking points.

  • “guns don’t kill people – people kill people”
  • “why don’t we argue for knife control when knives are used, or cars when they are used”
  • “need more guns”

Again, I want to focus on what should be done at this point.  Because the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different result.  As it was revealed during the early investigation of this massacre, it was discovered the guns were legally owned by the killer’s father, but they were not secured.  Here is where I am going to call out the NRA.  Here is your chance.  The NRA is about responsible gun ownership and safety, and this incident is a clear failure of both.  Where is your voice NRA?  Here is your chance to speak to your membership to prove that you are more than just a lobbying group lining the pockets of our government.

Signs

It is only after the event occurs, when we play Monday morning quarterback.  And those close to the horrific event have a-ha moments and epiphanies, recalling signs that should have been warning enough when they became evident.

This year alone, I have received 4 emails from my daughters’ school about “threats” or concerns that were dealt with, that if carried out, would most certainly have been tragic.  But somewhere along the lines, students got involved, and spoke up.  Tragedies were most likely prevented.

The killer in Santa Fe wore a trench coat, in Texas, on an extremely hot day (yeah, I know, most of them are that hot).  I am not saying that trench coats are uniformly a sign of guilt, but clearly in certain climates, it goes beyond being a fad.  But the other big issue, the connection to the alt-right movement, or more commonly known as the support of the Nazi theology.  And I will not hold back.  If you even admire the word Nazi, you are a racist, hateful, bigot.  There is nothing redeemable about respecting anyone who takes up their beliefs.  It is believed that this murderer some how discovered Naziology.

Mental Issues

My psychology professor in college used to state that it was a ridiculous concept for a murderer to claim insanity as a defense.  Because, of course only an insane person would kill another.  But mental health is another roulette wheel that just spins and spins every time one of these mass shootings occur.  The reasons may be related to bullying, physiological, anger, or any other issue.  No matter, those that need help and guidance to deal with their issues should have that help before it gets to this violent level.

It is now being reported that, while not necessarily his motive was sparked by the spurning by a girl he had romantic intents with, it has been stated that he clearly avoided shooting at people that he had no problem with.  While I do not consider this a mental health issue, somewhere along the lines, he believed it was okay to resort to violence because he had been turned down.

The Weapons

It does not matter what weapon gets used, a semi automatic, pistol, knife, car, rope, if someone wants to kill, the will use something.  But, that being said, we need to stop denying that the type of weapon used determines the body count.  And I find it strange that the NRA is being quiet during this event, because this time, a pistol and shotgun appeared to be used, instead of the usual semi AR.  Where the normal argument from the NRA has always been that a knife kills just as a gun will, the silence by the NRA over the weapons used in Santa Fe is noticed.  Clearly the killer did not want to kill anyone unplanned by spraying an unlimited amount of bullets with not aim or control like would have happened with a semi-automatic or AR.

I stated before, I do respect the 2nd amendment.  I believe all of my friends are responsible gun owners.  And I believe that most believe in common sense gun controls.  Gun controls do not mean the same thing as confiscation.  Seriously, we need to register to drive a car, register to vote, purchase care insurance, be a certain age to drink alcohol, etc..  Why shouldn’t there be responsible laws for guns as well?

The one question that I cannot seem to understand the answer to is this… I respect the right to defend yourself.  I also enjoy venizen so I respect the right to hunt.  But I do not understand the need to posses a weapon with limitless ammunition capability.  Face it, if you use an AR15 to defend yourself, you are going to hit other targets besides the intruder, assuming you even hit the intruder.  And face, it, if your aim is that bad for hunting that you need to spray the animal with gunfire to hopefully hit it once, then maybe you should not hunt.  But, seriously, I would really like to hear the rational answer to having to own a military grade weapon.  They have plenty of them in the armed services, where they are intended.

And let us take a look at the age of the killer just a moment.  He is 17 years old.  In Texas, the crime he committed he was charged as an adult, and therefore eligible for the death penalty.  Rightfully so.  But here is the problem.  Federal law, which overrules state law, says that a 17 year old cannot be executed.  I do not understand this.  There are those who argue there should not be age limits on guns, driving, alcohol, but when it comes to a punishment, age matters and for the most confusing reason of all… their brains are still not truly capable of understanding the gravity of the crime committed.  While I agree with that, all the more reason to support age limits.  It is not that they are being denied forever, just as voting, driving, and drinking, they will get to have guns, when they are mature enough to handle them.

Preparedness Does Not Matter

Many schools in Texas had already prepared for such a vile act.  It had armed guards, even armed teachers.  It led active shooter drills (ah… remember the good old days of just an occasional fire drill?).  But that did not stop the shooter from carrying the weapons into the school.  And the killer kept his recent behavior quiet so as not to draw attention.

I am afraid there is really only one way to prevent a shooting inside the school, or at least, prevent it from going beyond the door.

No one wants to see our schools with police and metal detectors.  But here is the fact, my generation was the last generation able to attend school without the fear of being shot.  Today’s children, this is all they know.  And it has become some common, and so accepted, that this is their normal.  And many children now have accepted that it is only a matter of time before their school is next.  This is unacceptable.

But there has to be common sense here.  There is a reason why we protect adults at a courthouse, or in an airport?  Why do we not provide the same level of protection in our schools for our children?  We cannot keep thinking that our kids are safe in school.  THEY ARE NOT.  Yes, this is not only a disappointing atmosphere to have in our schools, it is also going to be expensive.  But there is no option.

Some want to complain about the #neveragain movement.  But even our youth are tired of us adults doing nothing except pointing fingers, and denying any responsibility.  In the meantime, more die, and will die.  I am willing to bet that there is not one child who would not accept this level of protection in exchange for knowing that they will go home from school every day.

What Does Not Work

Prayers and thoughts do not prevent school shootings.

Congress will do nothing as long as they are in the pockets of the NRA.

Facebook arguments go nowhere.

Arguing with false dog whistles.

Forgetting til the next incident.

Blaming video games, certain music, lack of religion.  There is no scientific proof to back up these claims.  And just like needing a study by the CDC, an actual study would have to be completed to prove those activities or lack of faith play any role.

What We Need To Do

As proven in my daughters’ school, children who get involved, when they see something or hear something, they say something.  There is no wiggle room to determine if it is meant as a joke, or a serious concern.  Our children need to be made aware, this is no longer a joking matter, and words and comments need to be taken seriously, just as we would a student contemplating suicide.

Parents need to be more involved with their children.  Follow their grades.  Show an interest in their activities.

Do not ignore signs which are not normal.  Any loving parent should know their children better than anyone.  The slightest deviation should always set off an alarm and open a door of communication.

And yes, children need to be taught respect for everyone, regardless of race, creed, or gender.  There is no place in our society to teach  racism and bigotry as an acceptable way of living.  And racism and bigotry are taught.  Kids are not born to hate.

Schools need to make sure environments to not encourage or tolerate isolation.  Bullying must be dealt with (a post for another day), and the restoration of zero-tolerance is a must.  Sadly, zero-tolerance was in place in Florida before the Parkland massacre, but strangely, the sheriff of Broward County was one who lobbied for the lessening of zero-tolerance because he department had become so overburdened with dealing with minor issues that he felt could have been dealt with at the school level.  And here is the problem with leaving things up to the schools.  School administrations are scared of lawsuits.  Therefore they are more likely to look past infractions that may seem minor, only to have them escalate to a more serious level.  If the school tries to come down on the bully, the parent sues, and if the parent loses, they appeal, an expensive process most schools would rather avoid.

But you know what would be less expensive, prevention.  And that starts with a controlled entrance with metal detector and armed officers, not teachers.  Let the teachers teach.  And let the officers who are trained for these situations do their job to the best of their ability.

But we have to stop relying on our government to help.  If there is one thing that I learned as a school board candidate, and in particular, dealing in local politics, you can make a much bigger impact on the lower level of politics.  You can make the difference.  And there is no price you can put on the life of our children in the one place they should feel safe.

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My Daughters’ 1st Amendment Rights


The 1st Amendment to our constitution reads as follows:  “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”  These things are guaranteed, freedom of speech, freedom to peaceably protest, freedom of press, freedom of religion, and the freedom to complain to the government.  This applies to ALL United States citizens.  I repeat, this applies to ALL US citizens.  While there are limitations to the 1st Amendment (not being allowed to yell “fire” in a crowded theatre, hate speech, etc.), there are no limits (including age) as to US citizenship.

Children born in the US or on US properties, are born US citizens.  Children adopted internationally, as were my daughters, who are naturalized through processes at a US embassy of the country adopted from, or go through processes of citizenship back on US soil, ARE ALL US citizens, no matter if 6 months of age, 12 years old, or 40 years old.  But I want to stick with the fact, that children are considered “citizens”, which means that they are also guaranteed their 1st Amendment rights.

There is no age limit to be able to speak freely.  Yes, they must be 18 to vote.  Children in most states must be at 16 years old to drive a car.  Adults must be 21 to drink alcohol and children must only be 18 to smoke tobacco products.  Gun ownership has its own age rules and it is only getting more confusing.  But to stay on track on this post, there is no age limit for the 1st Amendment.

Tomorrow, March 14th, is the first of three planned “protests” to bring attention to something that has existed for decades, but brought to national attention twenty years ago as a boiling point that should never have been reached, violence in schools that led to the massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado.

While many people want to point fingers and blame at weapons of choice, the thing that cannot get lost, while the spotlight is on the most current event, is that for twenty years, our country, our government, and even we as citizens, have done nothing to reverse the direction that violence in schools have taken.  Even the slaughter of kindergartners and 1st graders at Sandy Hook was not enough to get more of a usual response of “thoughts and prayers”, talk about it, forget about it, repeat.

But for some reason, there is a different feeling coming from the senseless tragedy that occurred a month ago in Parkland, Florida.  As usual, the adults are doing the same thing as always, “thoughts and prayers”, blame, our government reps talk about it, and as usual, it appears we are once again at the same point as always, ready to move on, to wait for the next massacre.

What does not help, is that our President took to two televised opportunities, one, meeting with those affected by violence in schools, and the other in a meeting of senators to challenge them to come up with a solution or solutions that he would approve, acknowledging how dire things have become.  He promised families something would be done.  The president called out representatives who could be afraid or intimidated by the National Rifle Association.  It seemed like things were finally going to be going in the common sense direction.  Strict and enforced background checks, increased age limits for long guns to match handguns, banning bump stocks.  We all saw the intent and heard the hope from the president.

But he lied.  Either he had no intention all along, or after meeting with the NRA, he “changed” his own mind, which is kind of ironic considering he had just called out several senators on television for not standing up to the NRA.

The bottom line, here is where we are at following the tragedy in Florida, back at the beginning of the next cycle, waiting for the next act of school violence.  And I am purposely writing it that way, violence.  Because I do not care what weapon is used.  We as adults are letting our children down while we worry about ourselves and what we want.  In the mean time, more children have died in school violence.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing, over and over and over and over and over, and expecting a different result.

I was bullied all throughout elementary and junior high school so I understand violence in school.  I graduated in 1983, probably one of the last years that school violence was not put in the national spotlight.  Fights and other acts of violence were not dealt with using weapons for the most part.  But a few years later, my high school had metal detectors installed after weapons had been discovered being brought to school.  Now, many schools not only have metal detectors, but Student Resource Officers or policemen.  Is it really not that obvious, that violence had increased to the point that armed police officers now patrol our schools, instead of finding a way to deal with the violence itself before it gets to the point of an actual event?  At this point, without addressing dealing with the violence, dealing with the weapons of choice is a moot point.  And while we as adults continue to spin our wheels, protecting our own interests, our youngest citizens tomorrow will exercise their right to speak an peaceably protest.

For 17 minutes tomorrow, March 14th, many students, none forced to do so, will exit their classrooms, and assemble outside, to remember the 17 victims in the Florida school massacre a month ago.  Yes, it will get a lot of media attention.  And that is the point.  The adults, our government have already moved on.  Parkland is now history.  But it is not history, and tomorrow children will remind us that we have not done enough, and the children have not forgotten.

Seriously, as a reader of this post, are you one of the lucky ones who knows what it is like to have gone to school without fear of being shot or stabbed?  Or are you young enough to never know that feeling of being safe?  That is how today’s children go to school.  They have no idea what it is like to go to school without a legitimate fear of being killed.

The school district where my children attend school, is taking the approach of providing a safe, structured, and controlled opportunity for its students to participate in the national walkout tomorrow.  The district has dedicated space to protest, time to do so, and without fear of punishment for leaving class time.  The district is not pushing citizens for exercising their free speech.

The same cannot be said for some other districts such Lewisburg, PA that will serve students with a detention (fortunately that will not be a permanent mark on their record, and the district can still be perceived as being tough on dissidents while standing on the 1st amendment rights of the students), or several districts  in states like Texas who will actually serve suspensions to students who walk out for this protest.  If there is one good response to this particular action, colleges have actually said that participation in the National Walkout tomorrow, and if suspended, most colleges will not hold that discipline against the student applicants.

And of course, outside of the schools, and away from the government, there are the rest of us adults.  And I believe that we all want our children safe.  And  I also believe that most of us adults believe in the rights of the students to assemble tomorrow.  And for those that do not, do so for any possible reasons.  Those that still believe in the “children should be seen not heard” (in other words, have no voice).  There will be those who worry that the fire will continue to be stoked with more fuel so that we continue to talk about violence in the schools, and for some, that means a fear of gun control which I have intentionally avoided talking about in this post.  Of course, the reality, especially for high school seniors, currently 17 or 18 years of age, are going to be voters.  And that is a lot of new voters.  Voters who are now paying attention to the inaction of our government.  Voters who see the money lined in the pockets of our politicians.  Voters who see not the cause of the increased violence in our schools, but definitely see leaders who should be doing just that, lead, and find a solution so that while we protect airports, sports arenas, court houses, we protect our schools with the same efforts.  It is ridiculous that we worry about a bottle of water, or a sandwich going through TSA at an airport, but cannot provide that level of concern when it comes to our children in school.

So, I have encouraged both of my daughters to participate tomorrow.  Realistically, a solution will not happen by the next day, week, or even months later.  But children are willing to do what adults are not.

#ENOUGH

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