Tuesday, February 27, 2018

In Other Words: See Something; Say Something Is Not Enough Anymore

The students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida are angry. Seventeen students and teachers are dead now and students want things to change. Who can blame them?

Students around the country are organizing school walkouts in support. The Florida students are organizing a national march as well as a trip to their capital to voice their concerns.

Around NKY and the rest of the country we see the fallout from this latest violent incident - copy cat threats as well as support for fellow students.

After Columbine, I was part of the faculty group that wrote the first comprehensive response plan for Highlands High School.  We did good work and it has improved and expanded over the years, but a plan cannot imagine every scenario and every response. Perhaps the most disheartening thing for me at the time was to view the halls, cafeteria, gyms, entries, and classrooms as potential kill zones. Granted it was necessary, but it was unpleasant. I look at public buildings differently now.

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Every school action plan includes some form of the following - see something; say something. It’s a sensible approach and I have witnessed it first hand.  Because students spoke up, we (the school) were able to to prevent suicides or harm to other students. We were able to intervene on the behalf of students involved in abusive home lives or neglect or substance abuse. I am forever grateful to those who spoke up. But saying something is not enough - especially when students die. It’s time to do something.

I have seen the criticism that a student walkout will not solve the problem. True, it won’t solve the problem. But that is not the intention of the walkout. It is to call attention to a problem - a problem that adults created. It’s embarrassing to be called out in a public way so maybe by pinning that scarlet letter on adults it will change behavior. Adults have failed to protect children. And now the children are angry.  It’s sad that we adults must be shamed into action.

Our local police are wonderful to work with. They want to do it right. As does our school leadership. But that doesn’t mean that they can see everything. There is still something else to add to the formula.

The students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have added a third part to that action plan - see something; say something; do something. if we do nothing, then we are complicit with whatever the wrong is. And we will continue to have students practice lock down drills and active shooter drills. Childhood is tough enough without having to deal with the daily possibility that someone may kill them. No child deserves to live with that type of anxiety. Change is not easy, but it is inevitable. And it’s coming.

Saint Catherine of Siena said, “Proclaim the truth and do not be silent through fear.”  Listen to the children and they will show us how to lead.

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