Why School Shooting Awareness Matters

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Recently, our high school (not Kentucky) went through a serious protocol called A.L.I.C.E. as a national preventative for school shootings. The word is an acronym for the following: Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate (ALICE).

While as a teacher I have gone through many safety initiatives over the last twenty years that evolved from the Columbine tragedy (April 20th, 1999), this particular program seems to have the most impact. For the last two years, we have viewed a video training session designed around ALICE made by and for the students of our high school. The focus of preventive school shooting training is impactful and effective in letting students know that the concern is real.

In Kentucky, a community is reeling in tragedy. Reportedly, they are close-knit, so early in the morning did the shooting occur that the parents holding crosswalk signs are presently in tears, standing on the sides of the road in wonder. To them, right now, this is very real.

A few days after our training to close the semester before the holiday, a meme revealed present students holding ‘mock’ rifles and guns with the message, ‘don’t go to school today.’ Because social media is culpable, the students were found immediately and the disciplinary process is in motion. The incident created a stir throughout the school and district because, we are a close-knit community, and though our expanse is evident, everyone still does know each other.

What’s important to recognize is when such a tragedy occurs, people we are close to are impacted, in such a regard as there is no measure of one community to another’s reaction. We all have the same emotive responsibility when it comes to the safety of our children.

This commentary has nothing to do with gun control, or the right to bear arms being threatened by a liberal stance on weaponry and our 2nd amendment. This is about our students knowing the reality of our society, and their parents, our parents, our friends and relatives beginning to see just how pervasive this behavior is in our world today.

We turn on the news, and there is tragedy everywhere — terrorism has found a place in our lexicon that is no longer stunning, it is a way of life. We need to know that school shootings do not need to be nor should ever be accepted as a ‘way of life’ a reality that we have to get used to in our world. There is an opportunity to continue preventative manners to such horrific incidents as occurred in a Kentucky high school this very morning.

That measure occurs at home. As parents, as adults, as friends and neighbors we have to take the time to educate our children about the value of life and love. Our kids are inundated with the constant of a violent society, so left to their own devices they will act upon their impulses. We might only hope that having conversations with our children will reduce the potential for such an outcome in any community.

We need to look at all aspects of mockery, and reminders as seriously as the incident themselves. We must keep our children safe by assuring those closest to us that this behavior or resolution to an issue at school is not acceptable. We must have the conversations, while tonight we grieve the loss a close-knit Kentucky community must endure in light of the commonality of a school shooting.

Let’s teach our children the educational value of social media as an outlet for keeping our lives safe and fulfilling rather than one of haunting fantasy and impulsivity. Let’s keep our kids safe.

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Our Violent Humanity

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Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

 

It would seem we haven’t had enough,

Watching our neighbors fall to the sword,

The world around us eschewing the evil

Of a nation lost in a swirl of self-pity.

No one to blame but ourselves,

Yet that never comes into play,

We are soon to discover some outlet,

Easy to say we may fall personal prey.

In looking at the news today, I saw

Real lives being struck down, a society

Lost in its own pitfalls of insecurity,

All of them wondering, remaining alone.

When we might raise a flag to equality,

Shudder the notion that fire might stay,

The real burden of proof is our own lives,

Lost in the façade of believing in truth.

There is a Christian belief in humanity

Spouted from every possible pulpit,

Always with the best intentions, they say

The world will be better without evil.

Yet is it some times the very cross carrying,

Honorable, parishioner borne out of fear,

Might wield the weaponry of utter hate,

The rhetoric of painful prejudice begotten.

Pitfalls occur with anyone’s desire to change,

To make change, ask for change, demand change,

The local grocer suggests we use credit instead,

Yet it seems everywhere, fake news still relents.

I watched today with an ill heart the display

Of a humanity lost in the perils of bigotry,

Lost on themselves, lost on each other,

Drifting aimless in a world beyond reproach.

We might only reflect upon where we came

From in a society that once believed in love,

Today is seemingly hell bent on the otherwise,

The ability to act without a conscience so unwise.

Oh, to find love again – to breathe.

Haven’t Heard

I listened only long enough to fear,

the easiest emotion,

that moment when suddenly confusion, our lives,

becomes less about

being in control,

far more about wanting to

run away.

I want that,

more than anything else in the world,

I don’t want to be there when it happens.

I don’t desire definition.

Whether we begin to accept anything at all,

seems relevant only to those who might no longer need hope,

those who are the souls walking the earth tonight.

They are the ghosts in and around our mechanical antics,

fleshing out the reality of our lives,

while we with little regard for our own sanity,

struggle to understand just why hate needs to be a precedent

in our daily lives.

I cannot imagine the horror beyond my own intellectual

reaction

to all of the cruelty that exist outside my door,

outside yours, theirs, and wherever I walk tomorrow,

well that could be the right place again …

the wrong time doesn’t really have definition anymore.

~

Perhaps there is something to the purpose of faith

beyond expectation, beyond us, beyond me.

When Fear Steps Aside

The brutal truth

that piece of stark reality

seldom heard,

inside the whines, the cries, the lies.

When life steps on a figurative

land-mine

we do explode inside.

We rant,

we act-out, wielding weapons of words

to suggest how wrong YOU are,

how sweet life might be if THEY step away.

Yet in the quiet of our home

we do the buy-in

we make the choice to stay away

there’ll be no ruffling feathers tonight,

when fear steps aside,

and lets complacency inside.

Our world has experienced ‘dreams’

that received a clear shot in the face.

There is a certain power in maintaining the status quo,

but what about the other side,

that part we tend to avoid.

What about the people that only want to feel right,

rather than always living to accept second best.

Is that really living?

~

I would desire if I could to find a way to love,

I would if I could desire a way to find love

I would find a way to desire love

I would desire love

I would love

I love.

Victims of Violence

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They look like all of us,

do you ever wonder when the dust settles

if they feel the same way as you

when their loss becomes real.

Victims of violence

those directly in the face of pain

but more indirectly

the family, brother, sister, cousin, aunt, friend, colleague

They all eventually will look like you and me.

I watched a grown man cry today

and I wondered if there might be someone so callous

to judge his pain

having not yet endured the loss he experienced

today, right now, at this very moment, in the instance

our reality becomes whether our order is ready

his state of mind is only about

WHY? WHY! WHY?

When does it become close enough to

that which creates our personal need

when do we recognize that our lives

are so fragile that the television commentary

will one day enter our living room

yes, that sanctity, that venue that no one crosses.

How long will we hide behind a news story before

we act upon the perils that permeate their lives;

victims of violence.

Days Like These … (on bullying) prose

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I often wonder about my passions in life. I know I became a teacher for a reason, but that isn’t always enough to satisfy my curiosity. I love my job, I love the students I work with, and love all the challenges that come with my classroom and the stage work that occurs after the school day is over. Yet, I often still feel unfulfilled. I do have a beautiful family, wonderful wife, two healthy children that certainly create my reason to exist beyond all or any of my internal struggles. When those challenging days capture my psyche and I question what I am doing or entertain discouragement, my children come to mind immediately. My family and my students often help me to identify a source of purpose in my life, and then an afternoon like today occurs.

I spent the afternoon at a conference named Safe Students, Safe Schools sponsored by the Adler Graduate School in the Twin Cities. The conference was designed to address the issue of bullying in our schools; however, the goal was not only to mollify the many facets of the bully, as much as it was about exploring the whole process of identification. We often forget about the human nature of the bully when all of our energy is spent focused upon addressing the needs of the victim. Today’s conference intended to speak upon the many facets of the issue. The speakers were strong minded and provided wonderful resources to address the topics of the day. Like any conference there was a desire for more definition, more reason for attending, more need to recognize the burden of addressing such an issue in our schools without trivializing the actual label of the process. There seems to be strong commitment to raising awareness in the schools, but sadly, the execution of solution often falls short and the problem becomes a minimized initiative rather than a recognized need.

When I attend sessions like today I often personalize my reaction to the process. I think of my classroom and how I respond to my students on a daily basis. Today, I naturally thought of those students I find most troubling, the ones that interfere with the process of my classroom, the individuals whose sole purpose is, in my mind, to play a power game against my abilities and inevitably label themselves alone, as hostile and disruptive. I think of those situations that interfere with my teaching. I imagine those scenarios that have me wishing I could have the student removed rather than deal with their constant behavior issues throughout the day. I fail to think about their contributions as a human being and focus more upon their insubordinate angst. And then it happens, a speaker takes us along a different course of action. A person, a human being spends time baring their soul, telling their personal story of their child as a student in the classroom, from their perspective as a caring parent.

Tom Mauser’s son Daniel was not a bully, far from it. He was, and is, in Tom’s mind a thriving young man, filled with vigor and energy to capture the attention of his loving father and mother, and younger sister. Daniel Mauser is dead. He was a victim of the Columbine tragedy that took the lives of 13 people on a typical school day. Tom is quick to point out he does not want to ‘white-wash’ this personal tragedy by calling it an incident. He is adamant in telling us that before he begins the story of ‘that day’ that we as audience recognize it as a tragedy and nothing less. Tom Mauser is a real human being with the courage to speak to an audience of strangers, though active listeners, and relive the story of the day he lost his son to a shooting at Columbine High School in 1999. Tom Mauser then proceeded to bring all of us the horrific details of the day he lost his son, starting with pictures of his birth and through the early years leading up to his young age of 15 at the hands of the assailants. What is important to recognize here is that Tom began this whole story reflecting upon what was on his mind that day. He was attending a conference. He didn’t imagine that this day would begin and end the way it did, losing his son in a high school big enough to hide a percentage of its population on a typical school day.

I listened to Tom as I thought about my school and the potential for such a tragedy. I thought about my students and found myself thinking about ways to approach those students I wanted nothing to do with. I thought about why I became a teacher, and realized those are the challenges that I certainly signed up for when I chose this career. I thought about my own family and how easily I find my priorities becoming skewed when I fail to focus upon what is important in my life. I thought about calling my son and daughter. I then thought, thank God I am attending this conference on a Saturday.

© Thom Amundsen 2014