To the Point for 10/05/06


IT’S BEEN A SCARY couple of days here in Switzerland County. As adults we are accustomed to being leery of a dangerous, scary world around us; and we have learned in many ways to deal with that.

But when those fears filter down to our children, we become even more protective – and sometimes even more cautious.

There is no way to explain away the events that have transpired since the middle of last week at Switzerland County High School. There is no explanation that will calm the fears of every single person involved in the situation – students and parents alike; and there is no way to ensure each and every one that such a situation will never happen again.

We’d like to place ourselves and our children inside a protective bubble, keeping the rest of the world outside. We want to put a safe distance between what’s wrong with the world, and what’s right with our family.

Unfortunately, we live in a world that doesn’t allow very many of those “bubbles” to exist.

Whether we like it or not, the world and all of its problems finds a way of filtering into our lives. That is never more evident than the shooting at the Amish School in Pennsylvania early this week. The Amish culture separates them from “worldly things”, and in doing so, for a time it separated them from worldly problems that resulted.

An adult in Colorado shot a child; a student in Wisconsin killed his principal. North College Hill Schools in Cincinnati sent students home on Tuesday because of a threat to the school.

And, here in Switzerland County, we are continuing to try and piece back together some sort of normalcy to our school day.

As a parent, I felt those same anxieties as threats surfaced, but as a person close to the situation, I can tell each and everyone that every effort was made to protect the most valuable things in the school – the students.

It may have seemed to those on the outside that the school wasn’t following procedures, but from the inside the school’s Emergency Plan, which has been worked on and updated for more than a year, worked just as it was supposed to.

School officials deferred to law enforcement officers at different times during the entire process, and every time the question was always the same: “What keeps our students the most safe?”

One day it was keeping them in classrooms. Another it was moving them to a safe site at the middle school; but through it all the focus never left the safety of the children – our children.

With a daughter in college, I’ve continue to learn that no matter how much we try, we cannot be absolutely positive that our children are 100-percent safe at each and every moment of each and every day.

What we cannot allow to happen is for rumor and innuendo to race through our community to the point that it stops being rumor and people start believing it to be fact.

For many of us, the events of this week may have brought back memories to when we were in high school and someone pulled a fire alarm or someone used a pay phone inside the building to call in a prank report.

Unfortunately, we live in a time when those pranks must be taken very seriously; but the answer is not feeding the hysteria. As adults and parents we need to be prepared and ready to discuss these situations with our children in a calm manner. We need to help them understand the seriousness of the matter, but we can be serious without being frightening.

Sooner or later, Switzerland County is going to have school. Everyday. Every period. Every extra curricular activity is going to take place; and every event is going to be held.

How do you do that? By making sure that each and every student feels that they are safe when they walk into a school building. That teachers and staff members and administrators are doing everything that they can to provide a safe atmosphere where learning can take place.

Is that a 100-percent guarantee? No, but nothing is. A few years ago the nation was turned upside down by shootings in the postal service, but we still go buy our stamps and get our mail. A man shot people in a building supply store, but today it’s open for business. Airplanes crashed into buildings, but millions of people fly every day.

Yes, there are Columbines and other schools; but there are also many schools that go through these same types of things on what seems to be a daily basis. Does that mean that we simply disregard it? Absolutely not. But we also cannot allow it to control us and our lives.

Modern technology has provided many benefits to our society, but it has also made us vulnerable to anonymous postings and emails and text messages and cell phone calls that lead us to worry and wonder if these things might be true.

The truth is, no one is 100-percent safe at any place. No you or me. Not in our homes or at our jobs or during a recreational activity.

It’s the world that we live in, but we must continue to live the life we choose, not fall victim to hysteria that causes us to retreat into our homes in fear.