Opinion: A Mom’s Response to School Safety in Today’s World
I adore my job as a mom, but truthfully, the last few weeks have been challenging. I've been hesitant to talk because I really wasn't sure what I was feeling. And then it hit me. In a weird way, how I feel today is very similar to how I felt on 9/11 - the day the Twin Towers were hit, and I watched them fall. I was 8 months pregnant and wondered at that moment, "what type of world am I bringing my child into?"
17 years ago. I now have 3 kids, and my life has taken a lot of different turns, which has led to where I am today: a DJ on Y-105FM and 103.1 KFIL.
When the story about the Florida school shooting broke, my heart sunk and my mom feelings took over. I couldn't talk on the radio without choking up. Social media was basically a nightmare mixed with so many emotions. It was just a negative spot that didn't have answers. I was quiet as I just thought and prayed for these kids and families whose lives are forever changed...and the truth is I had a really hard time sending my own kids to school the day after the Florida shooting. My heart was breaking, and moms I know were sharing stories like this:
Mom: (saying goodbye to the daughter as she left for school). I love you! See you after school.
Child: Fingers crossed.
On Monday, February 26, an e-mail showed up in my inbox about a suspicious package at Century High School. I know that the situation was taken care of quickly, but concern from parents and students quickly grew. I realized that it was time to talk and bring our community together, so a real conversation can take place regarding the safety of our kids and the communication taking place.
Safety in our schools isn't a new topic for me. My high school back in the 90s in the middle of Iowa had bomb threats (weekly for a while). We had police officers that were in the halls with us, breaking up fights and searching lockers with drug dogs. Moments of uncertainty and fear were there, because being removed from class and loaded on to a bus after finding out that someone said a bomb was in your school is a scary moment - anyone would have fear at that moment. It wasn't a lasting feeling though. We only had simple ways of communication at that point - no e-mail, social media or the internet, and that might be why our fear went away rather than continued to get stirred. I'm not sure what communication my parents ever received, but we only had two options at that point, a note was sent home or we had a meeting at the school. Phone calls, social media posts, websites, Twitter, email, Skyward...none of that existed.
Flash forward to now, what is twisting my mom gut a bit now is the lack of consistent communication from our school district. As a parent, it is hard to navigate conversations with my child and know where to get information. E-mail, phone call, website, Facebook, PeachJar - I don't know where to look since there hasn't been consistency, let alone the huge variety of communication tools each individual teacher is using. The district knows this though because, last fall, I sat in a room with many others and shared all of my concerns to an individual who was helping the district gather data regarding communication.
I'm not trying to come across as the school district is horrible, so don't interpret that the wrong way. I know the staff is working hard to keep our kids safe. Those are jobs I wouldn't be good at, and I applaud those who are working side-by-side with our kids right now.
What do we do next? I don't have the answers but these are a few things that I am doing and what I think would help our community:
- Listening and talking to my kids. My kids tell me about their active shooter drills and how they stand on toilets or learn which windows and doors to escape rooms from. I have also heard my daughter talk about which teachers she would want to be with if there was an active shooter based on their "calmness" in stressful situations. These are not easy conversations to hear, but our kids need us to listen, so I will keep listening and asking questions...no matter how hard it is.
- Find your support people. This is crucial, especially for women. If you don't have your tribe, your galentines or peeps (whatever you call them), find some. Meet these people in person and start talking with each other. There are several mom groups in town, and if you need those connections, send me a message on my Facebook page.
- Have faith. I'm not in the school to protect my kids or with them throughout the day, and I can't predict tomorrow. I will continue to be a mom that is their advocate...even on the days when I don't have the answers and who shares their concerns and fears, but I have to rely on my faith. For me, that is God. (Not everyone will agree with this and that is ok.) I have been through more nasty stuff in my life than most, and the only solid thing that has ever been there is God. I wish I could predict the path that he is laying out for my life and my kids, but that isn't how faith works - although it would be a whole lot easier!
- Be an advocate for your child. I think we all tend to want to jump and scream first but really, research needs to happen. Whatever you are passionate about, that is where you start to gather info. This means you might need to go and visit schools in the community, volunteer in the classrooms, join the PPT at your child's school, schedule a meeting with a principal or attend a school board meeting.
- I do believe that better communication needs to take place between parents and the school district.
We have reached out to Rochester Public Schools for comment and will update with their comments.
Disclosure: This is my opinion as a mother of 3 kids and does not represent the views of Townsquare Media.