by thea marie
What's on my mind....
|Yesterday, a fifteen year old, eighth grade boy went to school never to come home again. He foolishly took a pellet gun, which looked very much like a real gun, to school with him. Once at school and the gun was discovered and reported, he had some sort of breakdown. He took another student hostage in what seemed like a fit of desperation, and then when he realized that the situation had gotten bigger than he could handle, he started a series of events that resulting in the ending of his life, and in many ways has affected all of us.
As a parent of sons and a middle school teacher, currently teaching eighth grade, the story was particulary poignant for me. I have read several different accounts of what happened in order to get a better feel for the actual series of events. I have also read the message boards on both AOL and Yahoo to see in which direction public opinion on the subject was leaning.
Everyone seems to want to lay blame somewhere. Some want to blame the SWAT team for overreacting, his parents, teachers, and school counselors for not noticing warning signs, his friends for not reporting his repeated threats of committing suicide, society in general, and of course the boy for bringing the gun in the first place.
It's a very sad story.
I feel for the pain that child had to have been in to voice that he wanted to take his own life. I thought, though, that he was seeking help more so than seeking death. If he wanted to kill himself, he would have found a way to do it that didn't involve the kids in his classes or his teachers. He wouldn't have talked so much about it to his peers; he would have just gone ahead and done it if that was what he wanted to do.
Some people on the message boards suggested that he committed suicide by SWAT, but I feel that what happened was more a last ditch desperation play than seeking a way out.
I feel badly for the policeman who had to shoot him, but there have been so many recent gun-related ugly situations in schools. At the point that the shooting happened, I don't think SWAT had a choice. It's horrible to think of it in terms of losing one child to save the others, but that is what it boiled down to yesterday.
Nobody knew at the time that the gun the boy had wasn't real. The colors on the barrel that would have identified it as a toy had been blackened in. The boy had threatened another student by holding the gun to his neck. He'd forced that child, at gunpoint, into a closet. Then he went running all over the campus with the gun. The school was put on lockdown. Nobody knew what his intentions were, and he was clearly acting in an unstable manner. When caqught up to and cornered, instead of surrendering and allowing help to get to him, reportedly, he pointed the gun at the policemen. I don't see how things could have turned out any differently.
No parent gets a child up in the morning for school with the thought that another child is going to show up with a gun and threaten the life of their child. No teacher gets up, gets ready for work, and shows up for the job with the thought that a student is going to bring a gun and he or she might lose her life at the hands of said student. No administrator signs on for the job thinking that he or she might one day have to put the school on lockdown while SWAT chases down an erratic student with a gun.
No parent gives birth to a child thinking that one day it might be like it had to have been for the parents of that boy yesterday. I feel so badly for them. It is so horrible for them on so many levels.
It seems to me that a great many kids today lack coping skills. I think a lot of it has to do with the excuses we make for kids. If a kid goes bad, we blame the parents. If a kid flunks a class or falls behind, we blame the teachers and the schools. If a kid falls in with the wrong group, we blame peer pressure. If a kid is overly active, we medicate them rather than train them to control themselves or teach them that certain situations call for certain behaviors. It's no wonder to me that when faced with adversity, rather than find ways to deal with it or to rise to the occasion, a great many children lash out in violence or shut down completely.
I don't know what the reasons were for this unfortunate tragedy. I just know that every time things like this happen, it makes us all that much more paranoid and insecure. Schools should be safe havens, but increasingly we are being forced to face that fact that no place is completely safe.