A local school received a threat early this week, and the specifics were frightening but not clear and specified today’s date for the mayhem.  The school district acted appropriately in every regard, in terms of searches of the school, and searches of kids before they entered school today.  Many parents, including myself, opted to keep our kids home anyway.  My thought was this: while I trust the District and the teachers explicitly, I don’t trust crazy. If anything happened, even if my kids weren’t hurt, I know I could never erase that experience from their minds, so I did the overly cautious thing and kept them home.

Things were fine at school today according to reports, if a bit weird.  Advisory, usually a 5 to 10 minute version of homeroom, turned into a 45 minute affair, as kids were still being screened outside until almost the start of second period.  Some kids posted pictures of it on Facebook.  But as expected, nothing really happened, and everyone is fine, if rattled.

FacebookHere’s the bigger issue: anything that used to get written off as kid stuff or a prank is now, for good reason, taken very seriously, but it’s very difficult for anyone to judge how serious a threat really is.  Calling in security, the police and more is an expense to taxpayers and to our school district, something we don’t need in the times of tight budgets and possible reductions in classes, programs, teacher pay and more, being just a few options on the table.  Any idle threat now raises  the stakes for everyone, and these “pranks” come with very real expenses and costs, in addition to the fear they raise.

I’ve spent some time the past two days monitoring Facebook, including the

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accounts of my kids and speaking to them about the text messages they are exchanging with friends.  The kids are having reactions ranging from fear to annoyance to incredulity, to feeling like they are living in a juvenile detention center.   And I worry about what this sort of stuff, even when necessary, says about education and learning.  It’s hard for learning to be joyful and to involve the requisite amount of trust when everyone is being screened like they are a potential criminal before they can enter the building.

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There are no good answers here.  I think our only choice is to impress upon kids that these sorts of things are taken as threats, and everyone pays, both emotionally and with expenses that can cause real problems, including putting programs they care about in jeopardy.  Unfortunately, these things aren’t funny anymore- they carry real world consequences, many that simply didn’t exist when I was in high school.

I also want to take a moment to again thank all of the people in our school district, from the school board, to the administrators, to the faculty and staff for everything you do for our kids every day, and for taking every precaution to keep them safe.  I do trust you, and couldn’t ask you to do anything more.  And I hope we can come together as a larger community to help make sure that kids know the consequences of silly actions, and their wide-ranging effects, and hope we don’t have to go through this type of thing again.  No one should ever have to worry about whether their kids will be safe in their school- most of the time, school may actually be safer for kids than home is, and it should always be so.  Thank you for everything you do to instill that sense of community in our kids- they need it now more than ever.