Schools should lead discussion on better safety
None of the issues being debated in the wake of last month’s Parkland, Fla., school shooting can be judged irrelevant.
Some suggestions and calls for action are intensely controversial while some less controversial ones also are on the conversation “plate.”
But each — very controversial or not — is worthy of discussion, if the carnage in the nation’s schools is to be halted, or at least substantially reduced, going forward.
Although much has happened from a reaction standpoint in the days since a teenage gunman snuffed out 17 lives at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, there’s not been enough emphasis that parents are the first line of defense against such incidents.
Unfortunately, this region, which has been beset with threats and perceived threats at a number of school districts since the Parkland incident, is not without guilt regarding that obvious oversight.
An important question is why all school systems here aren’t making available sessions for parents to meet and discuss ways to successfully impart into young minds the big-picture consequences of making a threat, whether jokingly or otherwise.
Not only should school officials lead such meetings; state and local police, counselors, including mental health professionals, also should be present to offer insight and advice.
And, of course, there should be plenty of opportunity for parents to ask questions and otherwise express their thoughts.
The fact is that when a young person makes a threat — verbally, via social media, by a written message on a restroom door or wall or by whatever other means — he or she probably doesn’t fully comprehend how that threat can be permanently life-altering.
Most young minds aren’t capable of fully grasping the long-lasting consequences.
Not only will the likely prospect exist for criminal punishment — most young people who make threats do get caught — but then there’s the question of how having been arrested for threatening others will negatively impact higher-education or job prospects later on, even the possibility of serving in the nation’s military.
Meanwhile, some of the bases for threats having been made have been ridiculous besides troubling. One such incident targeted the Altoona Area Junior High School — a threatening Snapchat post aimed at discouraging some young people from attending a school dance, so they would attend a private party instead.
Based on what’s transpired in this region over the past couple of weeks, there’s now a broader understanding that threats of violence aren’t only a problem of big schools. An example: Few people in the small Shade School District in Somerset County ever would have fathomed that a student would be planning a graduation ceremony mass shooting, but such a plan apparently was in the works.
In an article in the Feb. 26 Mirror, Northern Bedford School District Superintendent Todd Beatty lamented that there are no steps that school officials can now take if parents refuse to follow up on school officials’ recommendations that mental health services for their child be sought.
But even young people not needing such services need strong parental guidance. The parental first-line-of-defense mindset must be allowed to prevail in every home.
About three months of the 2017-18 school year remain.
Parents and students should be committed to making those months a productive, happy experience, not a time to be forever regretted.