I may not remember the date exactly, but I will never forget the day of the Virginia Tech shooting. Even though my children are in elementary school and I had dropped them off myself that morning, my heart went out to the parents that were many states away and could do nothing to help their children.
That evening, I felt the need to explain to my sons what had happened and what to do in that situation. Unfortunately, my younger son is obsessed with super heroes and would have felt the need to play the hero and try and save everyone, so I had to explain the difference and that it could be dangerous and what to do in that situation. As we sat around the table, I found it appalling that I was to look into those sweet, innocent faces and tell them how cruel the world really could be. I do not regret my decision to do so. I would rather do that than have them believe that nothing bad could ever happen and it did.
Later on in the year, I noticed my younger son having trouble at school. He has a speech impediment and many of the children feel the need to tease him for this. The bullying was getting out of control and there was nothing I could do to stop it. As a mother, I felt it my responsibility to go to the school and bring these matters to the teacher's attention. Instead of assisting my son, she merely told him that he needed to learn how to "handle his problems himself" and went about her day.
In my outrage, I went to the principle. I explained the situation and the steps I had taken to try and correct it. Unfortunately, her reaction was just as nonchalant as the teacher's had been. I could not believe it. With all the hoopla around the country following this tragedy and the anti-bully stance that the schools are professing, nothing was being done.
This is where the issue starts. When the bloodshed occurs and the tragedy is done, many people are left asking themselves, "Why?" Why indeed. This should never be an issue to begin with. The problem is, how do we, as a society, deal with this problem?
There is a good deal of yammering right now about how twenty years ago there were bullies and it never hurt anybody none. Apparently, everyone has forgotten Charles Whitman, but we will leave that alone for the moment. Twenty years ago, bullies were not as high tech as they are now. Twenty years ago, you would go to school, take your licks and go home. Home was your retreat and there, the bullies could not reach you. Now they can. With Internet and cell phones,
they are better able than ever to invade the respite that should be your off hours.
With a constant battering of meanness, it is only natural that a child would snap. We forget, often, that even though many of the school shooters are in high school or college and LOOK like adults, they are not. Just because one is of legal age to vote, drive and work does NOT mean that one is an adult. Think about it, you just came out of adolescence and puberty.
You have a small amount of freedom that you have never known before, and you don't know what to do with it. I have seen bigger explosions from less volatile components than these ingredients. You add into this a SEVERE inferiority complex, compliments of your school bullies, and you have a powder keg waiting for a match.
The trick here is to be proactive. Stop the issues before they begin. Not only teach the bullies what they need to know to make the abuse a little less severe, but work with the bullied to teach them how to manage their anger, hurt, frustration and how to diffuse the situation before it becomes worse. This is the key. Parents, teachers, in point of fact, the community as a whole, all need to be more involved with our children and less involved with ourselves. When we can do this, then, the school experience will be enriching for everyone and detrimental to few.
I am not silly enough to think this problem can go away completely, but it CAN be managed. How it happens, well, that is for the experts. Does it need to happen? YES!