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Need to Know

Last month I started getting emails from other moms in the community stating that our local junior high school had uncovered a young boy’s plan to execute several of his classmates.  He had a verbal hit list of over 20 people that included parents, students and family members.  He had access to guns. 

Junior High parents didn’t hear about it until weeks after his arrest when a story aired on the evening news.  No word was sent home from the school, although it appears that he was searched and arrested on school property.

The news broke and then the parental emails started flying.  Why had the school kept silent?

If there’s a lice outbreak, everyone is notified.  If a kid bonks his head on the school bus, his parents get a call from the transportation department.  But if your child witnesses one of his classmates being hauled off by police for planning to open fire on a building full of tweens, you have to wait weeks for the Seattle news affiliate to catch wind of the story.  Then you have to flood the district office with calls and emails.  Then they send out an email explaining why it was perfectly reasonable not to inform you in the first place.

My kids are not in junior high yet but the child arrested attended their elementary school last year and several of my friends have students at the junior high.  The incident hit close to home, very close.  A child was planning to murder other children and when parents whose children had been in imminent danger finally asked the school what had happened, they were told that the school didn’t need to inform them because it was a police matter. 

A police matter.

Maybe the lice outbreaks are a health department matter. 

Maybe changes in curriculum are a teacher matter.

They essentially told parents that information about student safety would be doled out on a need-to-know basis and that the parents at the middle school did not need to know because the threat had been removed.  I have major problems with this.

Kids talk and they don’t know what the heck they’re talking about.  It’s like a twisted game of telephone.  Did you hear about the kid who wanted to kill some kids at school?  Did you see him get his locker searched for guns and ammo?  I hear he wanted to kill Mr. X and Susie So-and-So.  Oh yeah?  I heard he had a machine gun in his back pack.

A feeling of fear builds in students too young to adequately process what almost happened and they don’t know what to believe.  I heard that some kids mentioned the incident to their parents early in October and were brushed aside because the parents thought they were blowing things out of proportion.

You can blame the parents for not taking their kids seriously but they probably thought that if something that major had happened on campus, they’d have been informed by the school.

By the time the gossip chain trickled down to Laylee, she was told on the bus that a student at the junior high had taken guns to school where he had been forced by bullies to kill a whole bunch of other kids or he’d risk being killed himself.

She is seven.

So I sat her down and I told her what had really happened according to the police reports.  I asked her if she had questions.  We discussed what she should do if anyone ever got violent or talked about becoming violent at school.  She was shocked by my frankness but seemed empowered to be spoken to like an adult, to be told the truth.

I bet a lot of parents at the junior high would have liked that courtesy and information that would have helped them to answer their children’s questions before they’d heard twisted fifth-hand accounts on the playground. 

“Removing the threat” was not good enough because the threat will not ever be fully removed.  We need to have information so that we can teach our children and so that we can decide whether they’re safe or not.

Anything regarding the safety and emotional welfare of my child is more than a police matter.  It’s my matter.  I should be first on the “need-to-know” list.

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