There was a time, many moons ago, when school was considered a safe place. You knew when you dropped off your children in the morning, that they would be safely cared for until time to come home. Sure, there were some bullies, but the principals dealt when them and there was usually someone to come to your rescue in time of trouble.
Fast-forward to the 21st century. At a time when children should feel even more secure, with highly educated teachers, security at many schools, cameras and lock-down procedures, why is it that our children are less safe now than during the 1950's and '60s? How can children sneak weapons into schools and terrorize an entire campus in this day of higher security measures and training?
Perhaps the answer lies in access to weapons. It is a known fact that many of these weapons do not come from responsible homes. Parents with children keep their weapons locked in cases, ammunition separate, and educate their children about proper useage and respect. Guns don't kill, it's true, people kill. But they can't do so if they don't have access to a weapon to begin with!
Children in recent tragedies have come forward to report that they "knew" something bad was going to happen. A classmate may have threatened to "kill them" if they were angry or frustrated, or a person in the school may have seemed strange to them, or may have behaved in an unusual manner. They may have seen strangers hanging around the schools where they didn't belong. They may even have seen or been told of people on the streets offering weapons for sale!
Why, then, was no one told? If events and behavior such as this are kept secret, bad things happen. Children in general seem to be more fearful now, and perhaps they have every right to feel that way. But why didn't the teachers catch on?
Maybe class size has something to do with it. It is easier to connect with children one-on-one in a class of 20 children than it is in a class with 30 plus children. Children open up to teachers who personally take an interest and engage them. And teachers are mandated to report any unusual behavior, reports or incidents to their principals, or even to authorities.
Whether it's abuse and the threat of harm to one child or an entire school, perhaps vigilence needs to be increased. In the days of teachers knowing everyone in small schools, this was much easier. They knew "Johnny" belonged in science and "Susie" should be at gym class. They knew all the children by sight and could recognize strangers who didn't belong in the school. When children reported bullying, parents contacted other parents, forming a network to deal with the problem. These days, with transience, children in flux and families in turmoil and financial difficulty, it's so much tougher to pick out those who should not be on the premises.
I have never been one to advocate locked school doors after the ringing of the bell, but perhaps this should be considered. It won't stop every act of violence, but it may decrease the opportunity for someone to walk in and open fire. Before all this violence, I never even considered security cameras, metal detectors, guards, or other measures as necessary, but perhaps we have raised a generation or two of children who don't see anything wrong with using a weapon as a measure of expressing their frustration, anger or fear. We have also raised a technologically advanced generation of children, some very bright individuals who know exactly how to get around security measures and other safeguards!
Violent video games and age-inappropriate television or music don't necessarily breed violence, but it may plant the seed that germinates in a troubled mind to promote acting out in a violent manner. It deadens the natural shock effect of violence. If bullies are not curtailed, if parents and administration don't listen to reports and concerns, the violence will continue. If the guy on the street corner continues to offer weapons to children, and if kids are allowed to "slip through the cracks" and live their lives in an invisible manner until they explode, violent acts will not stop and our children will remain in danger.
You can't turn back the clock, but you can get with the times. Ask questions, form a parent network, help your teacher and school and consider yourself to be an important mandated reporter. Support safety measures in your children's schools and discuss them with your family. Talk to your kids. Usually, they know far more than they may let on at first. Have open dialogue and really listen.