Monday, October 02, 2006

I Have Daughters

I was IMing with Kizz this afternoon, chatting about how well my first day of teaching went, when she asked me to turn on my television and find CNN. She wanted an update on a story she'd heard on her lunch break about a shooting in a one room schoolhouse in Amish country.

This is the third school shooting in less than a week.

How do I know this? Kizz posted an entry on her blog about gratitude on September 20th(it was she, not Oprah, who got me started on the daily gratitude kick). I posted a comment on that entry about how grateful I am for our relative safety.

Three Amish girls were killed today. One girl died on September 26th. Their parents sent them to school and they will never come home.

I'm beginning to reconsider how safe I really feel.

Driven by this awful combination of fear and sorrow and sympathy for the parents of those girls, I wrote a letter to my daughters' teachers, their principal, and the superintendent of schools for our district:

Dear Messrs. Superintendent, Principal and Second Grade Teacher, and Mrs. Fourth Grade Teacher:

On September 20th, a friend asked me to list five things for which I was grateful. Here's one of the items in my list:

*Our relative safety. I don't have to worry too much about my children's school being stormed by hostage-takers or about someone walking into my local Panera and blowing themselves up. I'm not so arrogant to think that those things could NEVER happen here and am watching with increasing horror as our nation's policies continue to ignore the idea that they COULD, but for now, I'm grateful that they don't.*

I'm writing to you in response to the three school shooting incidents that have happened in the U.S. since September 20th to ask what kind of safeguards and policies are in place should something like that happen in our schools. I've been listening to a lot of news lately (the wisdom of which, at the best of times, seems in question) and it's becoming startlingly obvious that my fears should not rest with Chechen-like terrorist, but with the random hostage taker with undefinable motives.

We never think it could happen to us. My point is that if it can happen in an unknown rural schoolhouse filled with Amish children, we really have to stop thinking that it can't happen in Small New England Town.

Forgive me for being - I'm not sure how to describe what I'm feeling; "alarmist" doesn't quite cut it, as there's clearly cause for alarm, neither does "paranoid" work - let's go with "cautious," shall we? I'm certain that you can appreciate that my children are literally the most important people in the world to me and I need to feel that I do everything I can to ensure their safety and well-being.

Thank you so much for your time and attention.


-Mrs. Chili, Mom of Punkin' Pie, Grade 4 and Beanie, Grade 2

I got a response already from Beanie's teacher. I'm choking back tears. Here's what he wrote:

I want you to know that I treat and care for all my students the same way I do my own children.

I admire what you wrote and I agree that we should live life but also keep certain incidents/scenarios in the back of our minds.

Thanks for sharing.

I completely believe that he would do anything necessary to keep "his" kids safe and that does offer me a certain sliver of comfort.

It may be all I can ask for, but I'm not sure that's enough.


Blogger Kizz said...

You can't see me over here but I am moist with my ever-increasing love of Beanie's teacher.

October 03, 2006 10:33 AM  
Anonymous claudia said...

The stats I saw were more startling than "third school shooting". The news said that this was the 20th something gun incident in a school in 7 weeks!You're reconsideration of how safe you feel is realistic in the face of the trends in society today. I'm not an alarmist,but I think that teaching young people about the bad things that some people are doing,and teaching them about survival is simply a proactive approach. This doesn't need to be done from a level of paranoia to scare a child, but to empower them to not feel like a potential victim waiting to happen.I don't think "keeping this in the back of our minds" is particularly helpful in the face of the real world that we live in today.

October 03, 2006 1:14 PM  
Blogger Mrs.Chili said...

Oh, Claudia, it just keeps getting better. I got THIS from the superintendent of the school district:

Trust me, I am convinced something of this nature could happen in here! You may not recall an incident 10 or so years ago when a fifth grader at your daughters' school brought a .357 Magnum handgun to school and accidentally fired the gun in a classroom full of children. I was the principal at the time so I am fully aware of how and why these events happen. We have security locks/cameras on our elementary schools doors and have a full array of security cameras at the HS, plus a full time police officer on duty. We do not have cameras and locked doors at the Middle School. This week we will begin an analysis of our security apparatus and will go the the board with a full report.

All of us in the School District have one *primary goal* to maintain a safe and challenging environment for all our children. We work at his every day.

Thank you for dropping me a note of concern.

Somehow, this does not comfort me in the least....

October 03, 2006 2:04 PM  
Anonymous claudia said...

I remember back to a time,as a little girl,when we did fire drills weekly and how to tuck ourselves under our desk in the case of a nuclear attack(like the latter would really have helped!!!) But at the very least,we were given some tools and a plan! I don't know that I would feel comfortable depending on the heroism of any teacher in the face of weaponry and dozens of hysterical children!!! Now,as is our custom, the administration will debate this subject indefinitely, while political correctness over-rides sound and practical solutions!!!Be afraid,be very afraid!

October 03, 2006 2:25 PM  
Blogger Mrs.Chili said...

"Be afraid,be very afraid!"

Yeah, Claudia. I've got that part covered.

How does one go about teaching one's children to deal with something like this? It's the age-old question of how to be rationally prepared in the face of something utterly irrational. I don't want to frighten my children into hysteria, but I also want them to be mindful and vigilant and as prepared as they could possibly be for something that, by its very nature, is almost impossible to prepare for.

We've been talking about how people deal with their anger, about how it's never okay to threaten anyone - verbally or physically - and about how many people deal with their problems through violence; almost always with violence toward those weaker and more vulnerable then themselves. I want them to not be afriad (I'm unprepared to homeschool two potential xenophobes), but I do want them to be aware of their surroundings, sensitive to the changes in others' behavior, and self-possessed in a crisis. I'm not sure what I'm teaching them is sufficient, but I'm doing the best that I can and seeking out guidance and opinions from as many people as I can.


October 06, 2006 8:57 PM  
Blogger vanx said...

I was sitting in a hotel room last week watching a press conference from Nickle Mines on CNN. The local sherrif in his Smokey Bear hat did a great job. I held it together until he read out the ages of the girls that were shot.

I've got three girls--7, 14, and 17.

October 12, 2006 5:07 PM  
Blogger Mrs.Chili said...

It's hit everyone hard - whether they have children or not. I have been struck by the fact that, with the exception of the principal in Wisconsin, all the recent victims of school shootings have been girls. Go to Kizz's site (October 2nd, "Thinking About Girls" and October 4th "The Bigger Stuff") for beautiful discussions of this...

October 12, 2006 5:42 PM  

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