Fear for our children’s safety is a universal feeling for parents.
We do everything possible to keep our children safe. We can’t hold their hands forever. We must release our grasp and let them venture out on their own.
Cuyahoga Falls parents place their trust in faculty and staff as they send their children back to the classroom, away from their vigilant protection.
We all know the grave realities of school violence.
Memories of the Columbine shootings remain vivid in my mind. My three-year-old son napped in his room as the story broke. I watched in disbelief with my father, a retired high school vice principal, shocked by the unspeakable violence perpetrated by the Colorado teenagers.
The recent news of a thwarted alleged bomb attack by a Tampa teenager reopened the wound, a terrifying reminder of every tragic case of violence committed on school campuses. The 17-year-old expelled student allegedly developed a detailed plot for mass murder and acquired the means to carry out his disturbing plan. Someone alerted the police before the attack, a heroic tip that likely saved countless lives.
Communication between students, parents, school and police is essential. Threats of violence must be investigated immediately.
Karl Ertle, President of Walsh Jesuit High School, shared his insight. Ertle explained, “We are a team and I work closely with all parent concerns. They have great faith in our staff, both during the day when our outstanding Dean, Kevin Barger, is in charge, and at night when Sean Schauffler, our Safety Director, coordinates the effort.”
Author and violence prevention expert, Gavin DeBecker, is an invaluable resource for parents and schools. In The Gift of Fear and Protecting the Gift, DeBecker provides detailed case studies to illustrate the warning signs of violent behavior. Children do not suddenly decide to commit mass violence. There are always red flags. This is why communication between schools, students and parents is imperative.
DeBecker shares a comprehensive list of questions parents should ask when they enroll their child in school. A few examples are:
- Are teachers formally notified when a child with a history of serious misconduct is enrolled at the school?
- Are acts of violence or criminality at the school documented? Are statistics maintained?
- Are there policies addressing violence, weapons, drug use, sexual abuse, child-on-child sexual abuse, unauthorized visitors?
- What is your policy for when to contact parents? What are the parent notification procedures?
- If there is an emergency in a classroom or on the playground, how does the teacher summon help?
- Can my child call me at any time?
If the school does not have a policy to address these questions, your inquiry will bring these issues to light. DeBecker advises parents to start committees to assist schools with safety issues.
DeBecker states, “The way to stop doubt is to find out. Learning the answers to your questions about the school is the way to get your intuition to stop nagging you.”
How do you manage fear of school violence?