It’s horrific to think that someone would take a gun to a school and shoot innocent people. As I look at the photos that come across the Internet, of the most recent tragedy in Florida, I am reminded of when my son was in high school and one of the students in his graduating class was told he could not attend the ceremony. The reason, he had a list of students he would shoot, in his phone and shared that list with a fellow student. My son had called me and told me there was going to be an assembly for the student body, which would provide limited details and asked me to not get involved.
The reason he thought I would get involved, besides my being employed by a neighboring school system, was that the student who was being told he could not attend the assembly was one of my friend’s nephews, and sort of related to us. He was his cousin’s cousin, and my sister’s nephew.
A few years prior, soon after Hurricane Sandy had hit, I was staying with my sister’s sister-in-law who just so happened to have a photo of her nephew on the fireplace mantel, and when my son noticed the photo, he said, “Mom, that kid is in my school. He’s so mean. Why is his photo here?” I would later inquire who the boy was, and my sister’s sister-in-law, who was becoming my good friend at the time, told me it was her brother’s son.
I would later find out that this young man was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at a young age, and struggled socially. I told my son, at that time, that perhaps the young boy was not so much mean, but just different and explained that he might have had a condition which caused him to behave in certain ways.
So knowing the young man’s family caused my son to think I might get involved in some way and my son told me that students were frightened and that he was accepting of his school’s choice not to allow the boy to attend the graduation ceremony.
As I read this morning’s paper, about the school shooting in Florida, I am mindful about the comments made by students who knew the apparent shooter. Some have said that they believed that the young man was depressed and that they sort of expected that some day, if anyone were to take conduct a shooting, it would be him. This reminded me of the threat assessment academy I attended back in 2004, hosted by Gavin de Becker, the author of The Gift of Fear. The academy was about predicting violence and participants of which I was one, asked if we felt that human violence could be predicted.
Should students with certain conditions be monitored in some way or is this a violation of their rights? If you think about things from a utilitarian perspective, whose rights matter more? I remember the when the boy my son went to school with was barred from graduation, his mother called me and she was so upset that her son was not permitted to graduate with his classmates. Yet, she was more concerned that this most recent event and the barring would cause the college he had been accepted to, to change their mind about his admittance.
I don’t so much have the answers about how to do things better or whose rights matter more, but my heartbreaks for the parents who lost their child or those who lost family members. My heart also breaks for the shooter for he had to be so lost and disturbed to commit such an act.
Good things happen all the time, but when something like this happens it can cause us to become sad and think about all that is wrong with the world. It is my hope that light shines brighter than the darkness, and there is some sort of peace found among the horrific event, but I can only imagine how difficult it would be to get the call that your child has been shot. My prayers are with those parents tonight.