The World Has Gone Mad. Or is it Just Our Own Backyard?

A link to Washington Post article by Travis M. Andrews appears below.  It’s followed by a link to a Miami Herald article on the same topic by Alex Harris.

A K-12 school in Florida is now offering bullet-resistant shields for students to keep in their backpacks.  The items are available for purchase by the kids’ parents.

There are a lot of questions.  One question is whether a conflict of interest exists because the owner of the company making the equipment has two children enrolled at the school (I don’t know whether actual laws or ethics rules address this, so I’m posing the question independently and without speculation).  Another is whether the panels offer real protection because they aren’t made to resist bullets discharged from assault rifles, which are often the weapons of choice in mass shootings.

Then there’s something else to consider…

Right now I’m thinking about the emotional trauma inflicted on children when they must prepare for the worst.  How many of them mistakenly believe the numerical odds are in favor of the worst happening?  Are the so-called experts in charge of their upbringing and education doing anything to help the kids develop perspective?

When I was a child, students didn’t have official training on how to respond to an attack.  However, teachers did have training.  I learned that in sixth grade in 1972, during a rock-throwing ambush on my elementary school on the West Coast.  A couple of windows in my classroom shattered, and the teacher promptly shouted orders for us to line up against two walls and walk into the common hallway.  We all handled it right, and fortunately I was the only one injured.  No, that last part isn’t a joke.  The injury was minor, and didn’t require treatment.  Being interviewed by the police after something like that is a surreal experience when you’re twelve, though.

Now, some schools, including Florida Christian School, hold drills to keep students sharp in the event of an attack.  I won’t denounce this practice.  Everyone knows there’s a risk, but schools must also place emphasis on preventing useless anxiety.

There are no easy answers when recommending precautions against gun violence.  However, we should have “issues” with one sentence in the Washington Post article because it reflects a shallow-but socially-accepted attitude in our society.  Here it is:

For Florida Christian School, however, (George) Gulla thinks the option to buy the backpack inserts might calm some parents.

I don’t have children, so I can’t relate to parental anxiety.  However, sending a child to school with bullet protection (which won’t even work if an assailant has a very sophisticated weapon) might actually create anxiety for the child.  How many well-meaning parents are going to lie to their kids and say the shields are intended for something else?  In those cases, the children will probably learn through the grapevine that their parents have lied.

Another flashback to my elementary school years…

I believe I was in second grade — and able to read — when my classmates and I were sent home at the end of the school day with insurance applications for our parents to fill out.  It gave them the option paying a premium and then collecting specific sums of money in the event a child lost an eye, a finger, etc. at school.  If memory serves, there was also a death benefit.

I told my parents I found the whole thing scary.  They had no comforting response, and my mother sent me back to school the next day with a check and the completed application, saying, “It makes me feel safer.”

I was already being bullied, starting in Kindergarten.  The first aggressor was a five year-old girl who made death threats in addition to hitting, kicking, biting, pulling my hair, trying to break my fingers and calling me a cultural slur.  I was aware that an insurance policy wouldn’t protect me from being maimed or killed at school, any more than the Kindergarten teacher or my parents (who were aware of the girl’s behavior) cared to protect me.

Two years after the Kindergarten nightmare, I knew the insurance policy was just an agreement to compensate parents and — this occurred to me much later — possibly protect the school from liability.  No one was protecting me from bullies, and hearing my mother talk about how the insurance made her feel safer was sickening.

There are too many power issues among children and adults.  People bully each other, buy guns and do everything short of intentionally cutting off their own oxygen to protect themselves against real or imagined threats.  Often, they’re making attempts to deal with the unknown, but other times they’re just losing their marbles.  Some parents teach their kids to use guns and instruct the children to “shoot first and ask questions later.”  Does it occur to those parents they might be killed at three a.m. when they get up out of bed to pee?

Neither news article mentions an effort to help students keep the risk of violence in perspective, although Kenneth Trump should get credit for pointing out lack of perspective among adults.  Mr. Trump is an expert in school security.  He is skeptical of the use of bullet-resistant panels, and believes the goal of making schools safer must be achieved through other means.  His comments are thought-provoking, but it’s difficult to know how many people are in the mood to take heed when the topic is as horrifying as gun violence.  Acting on impulse is easier than thinking.

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