Today, February 2, 2013, I am not worried about Punxsutawney Phil’s reaction to his shadow. Instead, this morning I was more alarmed at my own reaction, or more importantly, lack of reaction I had when I saw a headline on my local TV station’s website that declared that an Atlanta middle school is the latest to experience a school shooting. I read the headline: “Boy, 14, Shot at Atlanta Middle School—Teacher Injured, 1 Person in Police Custody”, and one would think I would immediately be alarmed. As a former teacher of middle school and junior high, one would think I would immediately click on the link to read what had transpired in an Atlanta middle school. The scary thing to me is: I didn’t.
I did not react with shock or alarm. I did not immediately click on the link to read the story. Why? When as a teacher and after leaving the teaching profession, I have always tried to stay well informed on the topic of school violence, particularly in the last month when all of the debates regarding gun control are raging from all sides of the issue. Why didn’t I immediately click on the link? Why did I keep scrolling down to see what other stories were on the page? I don’t know, but I am afraid of some of the potential answers.
Perhaps I didn’t react immediately because in this school shooting there were no fatalities. I am so very thankful that this school shooting was not fatal, but did I really just gloss over the headline because no one had died? Was it because only one person was shot as opposed to 20+? Again, a detail for which I am thankful, yet a horrible reason to ignore the story.
So I scrolled back to the headline and clicked on it. The article was short and just gave basic details. The victim and the shooter are both students at the middle school, the bullet grazed the back of the victim’s neck, the teacher was injured in the “disorder” after the shooting, the shooter was taken into custody, the school was locked down, then students were finally released to their parents (KMBC 1).
Not a ton of information, but since this is a news channel for Kansas City, one could justify not going into greater detail. Other news outlets that are national or geographically closer to the situation have more detail. Reuters reported the story describing the situation as, “the latest outbreak of gun violence in a U.S. school” (1). That statement certainly gives more gravity to this incident. The Christian Science Monitor used this incident in Atlanta to publish an entire article regarding metal detectors in schools, armed police officers on campus and whether or not students are learning if they feel like their school environment is closer to that of a prison than that of an institution of learning (1). Both of these articles give new and unique perspectives on the Atlanta shooting and also use it to touch on other aspects of school safety that affect us nationwide.
So why did I ‘gloss’ over the initial headline? Am I becoming so jaded to such headlines that they just seem like a part of everyday life? That is frightening, especially coming from an educator! How can I expect the general public to react seriously to such headlines when I find myself ignoring one?
The fact is, the best remedy I know is to do what I just did. I went back to the original headline and read the story. Then I searched some more and found other articles about the incident. Finally, I ‘fessed up’ to you, my readers, as to what I had done and how wrong it was. I raised the awareness level in myself (because that’s the best place to start), and now I am hopefully raising the awareness level in others. I pledge to never overlook a story regarding school violence as long as this epidemic is plaguing our schools. I hope you will do the same.
“Boy, 14, Shot at Atlanta Middle School—Teacher Injured; 1 Person in Police Custody.” www.kmbc.com January 31, 2013.
Khadaroo, Stacy Teicher. “Atlanta School Shooting Raises Doubts about Metal Detectors.” The Christian Science Monitor. February 1, 2013.