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Want A Safe School? Ask For It
Published on December 18, 2012 by guest author: Cindy F. Crawford

Because I’m in the news business, I found out about the Newtown, Conn., elementary school shooting pretty early on – and the fact that it was likely first graders killed.

I have a kindergartner who was at that time sitting innocently in a classroom similar to the one in Connecticut. My first reaction was to get my husband, who works way closer to the school than me, to drive over there and get William. Just have someone in the family lay eyes on him.

Then I realized that would be a knee-jerk reaction and may upset the child (and hubby), so I settled for watching the clock until his school day was done and I knew he’d be with home safely with grandparents.

Of course, William’s day was very ordinary, with exception of him finally getting the girl he likes in class to agree to be his girlfriend (which, folks, does happen this early for my ladies man. This is his third one since 3K).

I wondered the entire 30-minute commute home how I was going to talk about it with William. He’s 6. Same age as most of the kids killed. Being with grandparents, though, there was a good chance he’s seen nothing but Disney or PBS and won’t know a thing about the shootings.

So I got home and threw myself at him for hugs and kisses – which he definitely thought was strange, considering I usually walk in the door from my gnarly drive complaining about dumb drivers and poor growth planning by highway muckety mucks.

After a good squeezing of hugs, I tried to act casual and started drilling him with questions to assess his knowledge of that day’s events. As a journalist for 15 years who has interviewed some of the toughest subjects from police commanders to killers to surfers being denied a great wave, I know how to get the answer I’m looking for. Even if it takes multiple reasks of the same question 50 different ways.

I dive in with a plan of NOT leading the witness.

“Have you heard anything interesting today, William?”

“Anything you’d like to talk about?”

“Did you watch any TV today other than SpongeBob?”

“Did any of your teachers mention anything that bothered you today?”

The questions went on for about a half hour as he played innocently around me and chased his sister, etc. I got nothing.
I determined he didn’t know anything about it. And I decided that I wasn’t going to tell him about it either. He’s 6. He doesn’t need to know about the horrors of today’s society. Yet. And I’m not going to introduce him to it if I don’t have to. I’ll continue to ask him questions to see whether he's found out about it, and then I’ll mobilize. Here’s an article I turned to for advice, one among many.

Like most parents after the shooting, my husband and I have been concerned about security at William’s elementary school. We would like to see the front doors locked, so we would need to be buzzed in to enter, like many larger, urban districts require. And we should be asked to check our driver’s license to make sure we’re on the approved-to-see-a-kid-here list in a computer, which I hear other districts do.

My son’s school is one of only four in that district in a city of 20,000 – and it’s a great school. We think he’s getting a great education. But we need safety precautions, too. The school sent out an email outlining its safety procedures. I know they’re looking into it now and that’s crucial. Maybe investing in locks for the doors and computer databases of parents and approved visitors should be considered before they spend a recent tax increase on a renovated high school football stadium, among other projects that don’t involve safety.

Now’s the time to do something about school safety – at your local school. After all, gun laws aren’t changing any time soon. Mentally ill people need help, but so many are overlooked.

You never know what’s going to happen.

But you can be proactive.

And parents can be the agent for change in their school district if they speak loud enough.

Cindy F. Crawford is the editor of a news publication in Birmingham, Ala., and the proud parent of two spirited young children.

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User Comments
J LeBlanc | December 19, 2012 14:05

Good for you, not telling him. I wouldn't talk about it either, unless it was absolutely necessary.

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