There was a surreal, almost creepy vibe in the air on the last day of school in 2018. As I stood outside on a glorious sunny morning watching middle school kids experience the joy of just being kids as they ran around playing on their year-end field day, I was almost choked up with emotion. What should have been a happy, celebratory moment was tinged with sadness and an heady element of fear. At that very moment, on the other side of town, another middle school was experiencing the hell that all of us who work in education have come to dread and, yes, expect. As I watched our kids having fun out there in the warm May sun, I was also watching the nearby tree line for any suspicious movement–staring a little longer at every passing car–looking at any passerby I didn’t recognize with a raised eyebrow of suspicion. While our students were romping around in the sunshine and playing silly games, kids in Noblesville West Middle School, a mere 20 miles away, were being escorted by police onto buses that would carry them to a safe place where they could be picked up by their parents. They had just gone through a very real version of what all schools now regularly drill and prepare for, an active shooter in their building.
As school shootings go, this one barely showed up as a blip on the radar. Thankfully, nobody was killed in this one. One student and one teacher were shot. They both came through surgery and have recovered. The teacher who was shot, Jason Seaman, was the hero of this day as he was able to take down the student shooter and separate the gun from him, taking three bullets in the process. We’ll never know how many lives Mr. Seaman saved, but it seems very likely that he certainly saved more people from being shot.
Since nobody was killed, depending on where you live, you might not have even heard about this event. That is just a sign of the times. We’ve reached a point where school shootings are so common that, now, it seems to require a hefty death toll to even make wide-spread national news. I suspect the only part of this story that even made it newsworthy enough to capture any coverage outside of the Indianapolis market was the heroic act of Jason Seaman. We love a hero, it makes the story more palatable. That should concern us. School shootings are just another story these days.
There was no death toll, but this particular school shooting really shook me up. Perhaps it was the timing of where I was and what I was doing at the time. Perhaps it was the location–this was close to home in more ways than one. Noblesville is almost exactly half way between where I live and where I grew up. I know some people who work in that school system and several more whose kids go to Noblesville schools. Perhaps it was the fact that some of our kids had heard the news of the shooting just before we went outside for our last-day-of-school festivities–perhaps it was the fact that I had to look into the eyes of concerned teens several times and answer the question, “is Noblesville close?” Perhaps it was a combination of all of those things, but this shooting had me on edge.
All day, as I checked on social media, I saw many posts about the shooting from my Central Indiana friends network. My more liberal friends were angry as they continue to grow more and more impatient with the lack of talk about reasonable gun control measures. My conservative and Christian friends were offering up thoughts and prayers. Some of them, predictably, were already going on the defensive. I’ve seen it over and over again. After their thoughts and prayers go up, so do their defenses. They insist that it has nothing to do with gun control and begin listing the “real” causes of gun violence–mental illness–violent video games–lack of parenting–God and prayer being taken out of public schools.
I normally try to lay off commenting on such threads, by the way. I don’t like to debate on other people’s posts–if I can help myself–but when people chime in with the God in schools bit, I can’t help myself. I must protest that one. It’s a mighty small god that can be locked out of a school. The God I know is always in the public school where I work. He comes in with me, dozens of other teachers, and hundreds of students every day. He even gets named in the Pledge of Allegiance as we stand and recite it each morning, followed by a moment of silence where all are free to reflect or pray as they see fit. I know that mine isn’t the only public school where this happens. In fact, 45 of the 50 states have statutes that require opportunities for students to say the Pledge at school. So I’m not sure where this nonsense that God isn’t allowed in public schools is coming from but let’s go ahead and call it what it is, rubbish.
I’m not sure where the solution lies. Gun control is a sticky wicket. I know there isn’t a fool-proof solution there, but I am more than ready to take a look at it. I say this as the owner of several guns. Granted, no legislation is going to keep a gun out of the hands of someone who is desperate to get one, but if we can make it more difficult for people who would use these weapons on school children to get their hands on them, shouldn’t we be talking about that, like yesterday?
A viral meme has been making the rounds. The point made by the meme is that more kids have been killed in schools in 2018 than military personnel killed in the line of duty. According to fact checking sites, this is a meme that is actually factual. That fact should have us all scrambling to find a way to begin to fix this problem.
Schools should be the safest place our kids could possibly be. Why are they not?
There are far too many kids who can now tell you, in graphic detail, what it feels like to be shot. There are also far too many kids who can’t tell you what it feels like to be shot because they are dead.
On this weekend, we remember servicemen and women who went off in service of their country and never made it home.
I believe it is time we create a new national holiday to remember all the children who went to school one day and never made it home. We have beautiful monuments all over our nation’s capital to remember each war we’ve fought and to honor those who served and were killed. We need a monument for the victims of school shootings–it’s time–the numbers are mounting by the week.
Maybe if we set aside a day of remembrance and create a tangible place of honor for the fallen kids and their teachers–maybe then, we will start talking about how to stop this insanity.
In closing, I’d like to share this song that I wrote and recorded in memory of the 20 small children who were senselessly murdered in the Newtown Connecticut shooting.