Lori Falce: What about safety?
On Wednesday night, I sat in the auditorium with other parents whose kids were about to embark on the adventure that is middle school.
We learned where the buses will pick the kids up and why our teachers won’t give us packets of schoolwork for sick days or vacations.
We learned that bullying is being taken seriously and to confiscate cellphones at bedtime to help rein it in.
We learned that sixth grade is when we have to start being really vigilant about drugs and alcohol and other conversations that make our kids roll their eyes and say “Mom!” in a tone of voice that is simultaneously bored and embarrassed.
And then a mom asked the question that so many want to know but don’t want to have to know.
“What about safety?”
Safety is a code word. It’s not about fire drills and what to do in the event of earthquakes. It’s a euphemism for “how are you going to keep my child alive when someone decides to kill people?”
The principal nodded like he knew it was an inevitable query. It probably happens every year. And he was ready. He told us there is an armed officer patrolling the halls where our kids will take spelling tests and eat chicken nuggets.
He told us there are plans for those horrible Parkland, Columbine, Newtown situations. He wouldn’t tell us what they are because they have to be kept secret to be effective. That makes sense. You don’t give the bank robbers the plans for the safe.
The kids are also not part of the plan. With so many school shooters actually being students, the school has decided that while teachers will be trained, the kids just have to know to follow directions.
I told my friends about this, and the reactions were mixed. A teacher from the Midwest said she needs her students to know what to expect so they can do it quickly and efficiently and leave her free to guide the students who need more help. A graduate student and mom from New York doesn’t like active shooter drills and worries about their effect on kids.
It tears me in two. I want my son to know what to do, but I don’t want him to dwell on what it could mean. I want the students to know how to stay safe. I don’t want a shooter to have inside knowledge.
What I want is to have middle school be a place where kids learn that reading is more than a class you take once a day. I want it to be where my kid figures out it’s OK to be a nerd if that’s what you want to be. I want it to be where he finds other like-minded nerds to share pizza and Fortnite jokes at lunch.
“Hang on loosely,” the principal said, advising us to give our kids supervision but enough room to grow.
I want to do that.
But what about safety?
Lori Falce is a Tribune-Review community engagement editor. You can contact Lori at [email protected].