Monday, December 17, 2012

Beginnings (Reflecting on the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting)

There are a lot of beginnings in life. We are born, to begin with. We learn to walk and talk, to feed ourselves, and to play. We go to school and learn new things. We make friends. We learn to drive a car. We get our first job. We graduate. We get girlfriends or boyfriends. We have our first drink. We get our first career focused job. We get married. We make love for the first time. We have kids. We move to a new place. We build our first home. We have grandkids. The list of beginnings can be long and varied, to say the least.

Last Friday, 27 people were killed in Newtown, Connecticut by a single gunman. 27 people saw not what could have been another beginning in life, but the sudden and very tragic end of their lives instead. Most of them were children as young as five and six years old.  As someone who works with kids, I can’t even begin to imagine anyone being capable of walking into a classroom full of kids that age and killing them one by one. It makes me sick to my stomach just thinking about it.

When I wrote my last post, I had no idea how relevant it would be. I talked about all the things teachers have to go through, including the violence that sometimes occurs. I didn’t get as descriptive as I could have though. I didn’t say that we prepare ourselves for the possibility of some lunatic coming into the school with the intent of causing harm. I didn’t mention that when a person does enter a school with such intent, that we teachers are usually the first line of defense for students at threat. It is our job to protect students at any cost. The educators at Sandy Hook Elementary bravely did just that, some of them to the point of giving their own lives in order to protect their students.

I know many people are already talking about us needing stronger gun control laws in this country. Maybe we do. But I think there is a better solution. Any lunatic wanting to cause people harm will find a way to accomplish that goal—gun or no gun. How many traffic accidents have to occur at the intersection before lights are put up? How many school shootings (and those at other locations) do we have to endure before people get serious about fixing this problem?

As an educator, there are a few simple things I can think of that would improve school safety.

1) Every school should have lock down procedures.

2) Every school principal should be licensed to carry a gun, which should be kept locked in his or her office until needed. They should be trained in how to use the gun and should undergo a psychological examination every month or two to determine whether or not they are still fit to have the gun.

3) Every teacher should be allowed a can of mace, or pepper spray, to use on anyone trying to enter their classroom with intent to cause harm to students.

4) Every school should be equipped with bullet proof glass foyers consisting of two sets of doors to pass through. Metal detecting devices should be placed around the first set of doors. If a person passes through them, setting off the devices, both sets of doors should automatically lock, preventing the person from either entering or leaving the school until security can be called.

5) Local law enforcement should patrol every school at least three times a day, and at random times.

6) No unauthorized persons should be allowed on school grounds during school hours.

7) Schools should be fully funded at all times to prevent lapses in security, such as limited personnel and a lack of security devices/monitoring.

8) Students should complete psychological evaluations at least once a month, where they are asked questions such as whether or not they like school; if not, then why not; what is their favorite subject in school, and why; what is their least favorite subject, and why; is there anyone at school bullying or bothering them; do they think people like them or not; do they consider themselves happy or unhappy, and why; did they eat breakfast this morning; did they eat supper last night; do they like their mom and/or dad; if not, then why not; if they could change anything about themselves, what would they change; and if they could change anything about school, what would they change. Answers to these sorts of questions could tell teachers so much about their students, from abuses that may be going on, to the mindset of the students, to even helping determine students at risk academically and the possible reasons behind that.

From a societal standpoint, I would argue that we have in a lot of ways not only lost our morals, but ran from them completely. As a nation, we have to return to Christ. And those of us already belonging to him must do a better job of introducing him to others. If we keep drifting further and further away, more and more events like the one that happened at Sandy Hook will continue to happen. And they’ll happen much more frequently as well. We should allow prayer in schools again. We should put the Ten Commandments back in the classrooms and in the public sphere. We should always and forever teach students the greatest of all rules: to do unto others as they would want others to do unto them. We should restrict the level of sex and violence portrayed on TV. We should do more to promote sustainable families as well. I can’t imagine what it does to some of these kids nowadays growing up with parents divorced, parents remarrying (and sometimes more than once), having to live here or there, getting and then sometimes losing step brothers and sisters—I mean, what sort of home life is that? We must also figure out better ways of handling mental health issues. I don’t only feel sorrow for the victims of what happened in Newtown. I feel sorrow for Adam Lanza, the shooter, too. According to many reports, he had Asperger’s Syndrome, which may have led him to have feelings that would allow him to do what he did. We need to do more as a society to help those struggling—with whatever problem/s they face.

And then there is the question of weapons. Personally, I don’t have a problem with banning some assault weapons. I know some gun enthusiasts would disagree with me, but I simply fail to see any logical reason for needing those sorts of guns, outside of just wanting a thrill. I’m sure a person could get a thrill from setting off a nuclear device as well, but that doesn’t mean people should be allowed to purchase and have them. I think the same applies to assault weapons. The only exception I would agree to would be if we were in a time of war, in which a foreign enemy was likely to invade our country. I know some people resist assault weapons bans out of paranoia or precaution against a possible takeover by our own government, but I would argue that the possibility of that happening is slim to none, and even if it did, we’d have plenty of other means of fighting back. But the greatest argument is that in allowing these weapons to be on the streets, we’re causing much more harm in the present than what has to be. That being the case, we should do our best to get rid of them. I don’t believe, however, that we should go to an extreme and begin banning just any and all weapons. I do believe we should preserve our right to bear arms as much as possible. I just don’t believe we should allow weapons that enable more violence in our society than that which is necessary; or to put it more simply, that cause more harm than good.

My heart goes out to all those involved in the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary. I can’t imagine the amount of grief and sadness the community there is experiencing. I can’t imagine what the family and friends of those who were murdered are going through. This was an unspeakably evil act, and I can only hope one that will never be repeated. If we can actually begin taking these sorts of threats seriously and finally take some sort of meaningful action against them, then we may see a real decrease in the number of these sorts of horrific acts taking place. Otherwise we may as well get used to the norm, because that is quickly what this is becoming.

In our sadness as a nation, let me leave you with this: a nation is only as great as the degree to which it takes care of its sick, its weak, its dying, its elderly, its young, and all those others who are unable to take care of themselves. We clearly have much more work to be done.

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