We are two weeks into the school year and already each of my children has dealt with a situation of gun violence.
For my oldest, it happened just before she returned to college at Temple University in Philadelphia. Police serving a warrant for drug crimes near Temple’s hospital ran up against a suspect who was determined not to be locked up without a gunfight and wounded six cops.
The whole neighborhood went into lockdown until he could be apprehended and that included the hospital where one of my daughter’s best friends, Natalie, a nursing student, works. Safe but hungry and a little pissed off at the situation, Natalie texted Leeannah to let her know she was OK.
Thus began a series of texts between Natalie and Leeannah as we kept her posted on what we heard from news reports and generally tried to keep up her spirits.
Times, as we well know, have changed. When I was in college, we helped our friends handle breakups and crafted arguments to win over parents when one of us wanted to change majors. Now Leeannah and I considered what was the right amount and tone of text chatter during a lockdown. Any of us could be in this situation at any time, we reasoned, and it was nice to have someone keep you company, and if things got worse, be a source of help.
Last week, there was a lockout at my son’s high school. It started after Harford County Sheriff’s Office called the Baltimore County Police Department about a suicidal and possibly armed 24-year-old man whom they believed, based on cell phone information, had come to the Towson area, Officer Jennifer Peach, a BCPD spokeswoman says. In total, four schools were on lockout, which meant no one could enter those school buildings and the students were not able to leave until the man was safely in police custody.
Ours is an overcrowded district and there are many trailers where students stayed during the lockout. Did that make them sitting ducks for an armed suspect, parents wondered. Baltimore County Public Schools policy is for students to “usually remain” in the trailers, says school spokesman Brandon Oland. But “every situation is different” and police on the scene will evaluate situations as they evolve and evacuate students from trailers if necessary.
“We take this very seriously,” Oland says, adding that often lockouts are put in place “out of an abundance of caution.”
The lockout raised other questions in my family: My son’s teacher did not tell his class about the incident — they found out about an hour into the situation when a classmate’s mom texted her and the message came over her Apple Watch. Doyle was angry to not have known, and while this is tricky territory for teachers, I understand where he is coming from.
My son is 6 feet 4 inches tall and an easygoing athlete often recruited by my friends and family to help lift and move anything and everything. Airlines always put him in exit rows, and next year he will be of draft age. In a crisis situation, where desks have to be moved or people carried, he would likely be one kid who would be asked to help. So, he wants to know stuff.
Teachers, on the other hand, don’t want to unnecessarily alarm students — and shouldn’t for that matter. So, where does that leave us? Luckily no one was harmed in last week’s incident, but I wonder what else I need to do to prepare my kids for the world in which we live.
I hate this. As a parent, I am tired of thinking from month to month what more I should teach my children to be safe. As an editor, I am tired of writing about this topic. In 2018, Baltimore’s Child did a four-part series on school safety for which we won a silver award from the Parenting Media Association. The series touched on so many angles — ALICE training, mental health awareness and more — and yet this issue continues to be one we have to cover, because we continue to be a violent country.
While no one reads this magazine for my political opinion, here it is: Instead of saying this is mental health issue vs. a gun issue, county vs. city, background checks vs. red flag laws, Democrat vs. Republican, let’s look at all of it. And let’s do it now.
I’m tired of living in a violent world. Parents, aren’t you?