When elementary schools are no longer guaranteed safe havens from the evils of the world, I ask the question many have asked recently, "What kind of world do we live in?"
As the September 11th, 2001 tragedy changed our world forever, so has the Connecticut school shooting tragedy of December 14th of last year. As as educator working for Mesa Public Schools, I can personally see how the landscape has changed. There is an undercurrent of fear and uncertainty.
Can something so horrible happen again? Can this happen here, to us....to me?
I was teaching in an elementary school just last week and we had a lockdown drill. The procedures that Mesa Public Schools has in place are good ones. The door is locked. The kids are accounted for and kept calm. Communication is maintained with the office, letting them know who is the classroom and who is not.
I honestly had no idea if this lockdown was a drill or real. I only had three students at the time, and I thought of them. I thought of what was at stake. It was a scary, unsettling feeling waiting in the classroom for the all clear. This particular lockdown was a drill, but the feeling did not leave me that it could have been real.
Before Connecticut, lockdowns were an almost nuisance, especially at the elementary school level. Just something that had to be done to satisfy district protocal. Now safety is as important as teaching math and English. And not that it was not important before. I think it is the fact that now anything is possible.
How unthinkable that only a few months ago the thought that someone would be so deranged at to target an elementary school.
The tragedy in Connecticut hits closer to home for me in another way. A mere days after the Newtown tragedy, a teenage girl at Red Mountain High School in Mesa was arrested for threatening to kill people at the school with guns and explosives. Her comments were posted on YouTube and thankfully taken seriously enough for the authorities to be contacted.
In a recent police interrogation video just released she says, "Sometimes I'm rational and like, 'why would I ever do that?' Then I'm like irrational and just want to frickin' kill everyone." I have taught in the past at Red Mountain High School. My wife works there now. When she received a call from the principal there before winter break letting her know what the situation was, it was honestly chilling and disturbing news.
You tend to not sleep too well at night after a phone call like that.
There are no easy answers here. Some believe the answer is to get rid of all the guns. Some want to arm the school's principal or have a police presence on every campus.
When I hear little kids talk about games like Black Opps 2 with a fascination that borders on obsession, I wonder if video games are part of the problem along with all the readily available media sources of today? I would never have blamed video games for anything a few years ago, but now I don't know.
Some of the video games I have seen are definitely made for an adult market, but little kids play them all the same.
Maybe the answer is more simple.
John Lennon said, "All you Need is Love." The world could certainly use more of that right now. It couldn't hurt.