What if we Skip the Thoughts & Prayers and Do Something about School Violence?

“I’d jump in front of a bullet if it meant I’d save someone else.”

The words stopped me in my tracks.

“Please, don’t be a hero. You’re my only son,” was all I could say.

I’d never heard something so brave, or terrifying from my little boy. To be fair, my “little boy” is a man now. He’ll be 18 in a couple of weeks. Still, he’s my baby and the words shook me, leaving me in angry tears.

I wondered if my father had said the same thing at the tender age of 17 when he left high school to enlist in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War. The only thing he ever wanted to be was a soldier. He was prepared to do what must be done for his country—no matter the consequences.

“I would take a bullet to save the life of another human being.”

Did those words leave my father’s lips as he prepared for war? Could he speak such a thing to his mother? Or, would it have left her in tears, too? Mothers don’t want to think about our young men going off to war or jumping in front of bullets.

When my son said he’d take a bullet, I believed him with my whole heart. The only times he’s ever been in trouble in his young life, he went down protecting or defending someone else. He stands up for the underdogs. He loves his friends fiercely. He will do anything he can to help someone else, even when it hurts him. That’s the kind of compassionate, selfless young man he is.

Yes, my son sounded like a brave soldier that day. But, he wasn’t talking about deploying to a distant warzone. He wasn’t talking about taking a bullet for one of his brothers who fought beside him in combat. No, my son wasn’t going away to war. He was going to his high school in Nashville, Tennessee, prepared to take a bullet to save a classmate in the event of a mass shooting.

“I’d charge down the hallway at some asshole with a gun if I thought I could stop him.”

His words filled me with pride—and dread. These are thoughts my brave, sweet son should not have in his 17-year-old psyche. These are things kids just shouldn’t have to think about at all.

When I was a kid, we had fire drills to make sure everyone knew how to get out of the building in case of a fire. We had tornado drills to make sure everyone knew how to get to a safe zone to tuck and cover. We had evacuation drills on the bus to learn how to get out quickly in an emergency.

We did not have active shooter drills. Active shooter drills did not exist when I was in school.

Back then, our faculty watched the perimeters of our campus. They made visitors sign in at the office, and made sure the dangers of the world didn’t make it to our halls and classrooms. It was easy then because the bad guys with the guns were outsiders. They were easy to spot because they were out of place inside the walls of our school.

Back then, the bad guys with guns weren’t students.

Tomorrow, my son’s school district has closed in response to the most recent school shooting in Florida. They want to gather all of their staff, faculty, resource officers, and leadership team to revisit and revamp our school safety protocols and policies. While I appreciate the proactive approach, I absolutely hate that it has to be this way.

When I received the email from the school district announcing the closure, I went to social media to talk to other parents, curious if we were the only district, or if others had done the same thing. Our district stated there have been 18 shootings in the past six weeks in American schools. This began a Facebook debate about what exactly qualifies as a “school shooting,” since in some of the 18 instances in which a weapon was fired on a school campus didn’t end with injured or dead students.

What in the whole, entire, holy actual f*ck are we doing, America?

Have we become so numb to the violence in our culture that we now need to quantify in bloodshed or lives lost what “counts” as a school shooting? Or, can we just for a minute agree that if someone is firing a weapon on school property, that’s not okay? Even if no one was hurt, the potential for danger was present and real—and for f*ck’s sake, when is having a gun in a school ever okay?

Before we jump on the gun control bus, let me state very clearly my position on that. It’s basically the same as my position on everything: power to the people. The more you try to take guns away from the good guys—the law-abiding citizens who go through the proper channels to purchase guns legally for protection, recreation, or hunting—the less good guys we’ll have with guns. But, the bad guys? They’ll still get their guns on the street, or by force, or however they can—just like they do right now.

Unarming the good guys is not the way to take guns away from the bad guys. And personally, I’d like to know there are some good guys out there with weapons, just in case we need them.

Every time there is another school shooting, the gun control debate ignites. And while I think it’s important to have that conversation, I also think we’re missing the root cause of the issue.

It’s fine for responsible adults to own guns. It’s not fine for kids to have access to them without adult supervision. Period. That’s one question I need answered. How do the kids who shoot up their schools get their hands on these weapons in the first place? Do their parents know that they have access to deadly weapons? Do the kids get the weapons from the parents?

Where are the parents?

Right after the gun control debate, we go to the other classic question: where are the parents? It’s easy to judge, to assume they must be absent, or abusive, or just plain irresponsible and reckless. But, what if they’re not? What if they are just like us? What if our kids aren’t so different from their kids?

This isn’t an “us and them” issue, as much as we would love to put that space between ourselves and the parents of the kids who have done these terrible things. We have to stop blindly blaming them. Honestly, we really need them. We need their knowledge, their insight, their shock, and their regrets. We need to know what they saw, what they experienced before their children became the kids who killed their classmates.

Their stories might be the key to predicting and preventing the next horrible act of student violence.

Are these kids abused when they’re little? Are they bullied by other students, or treated unfairly by teachers? Are they mentally ill? Strung out on drugs? Are they desensitized from years of violent video games, movies, and television shows? Do they just snap under the sheer weight of their lives?

Maybe I’m naïve, but I just cannot accept the idea that any child is born with this kind of malice and hatred in their precious little heart. I have to believe they learn it. Maybe it comes from bad guys who inflict pain directly upon them. Or, maybe they absorb it from the rampant disregard for humanity that seems to dominate our bullsh*t culture. Maybe there’s something even darker at work here that I can’t fathom.

I don’t know how it happens. I just know we have to figure it out. We have to fix this now—and no amount of thoughts and prayers is going to cut it. Enough with that. We don’t need anymore thoughts and prayers. We need action, and real, dirty, horrible conversations about the process that converts an innocent little child into a cold-blooded killer.

How do these kids become the kids who murder their peers? And how can we reach them before they become school assassins?

That’s the conversation I hope our school district will have tomorrow. Are there warning signs? Can they tell which students might have violent tendencies? Is there any way to predict an event like this?

How do the kids get the guns in the first place, and how do they get them into the school building?

Do we need TSA-style security checkpoints in all entrances of our public high schools?

What will it take to end this madness and keep our kids safe?

This is the discussion we need to have—all of us. School officials, law enforcement, parents, and maybe most importantly, the students. How can we all work together to make sure our schools never end up on the evening news?

My son will graduate in a few short months. He should be focused on his grades and getting ready for college in the fall. He should be thinking about prom, graduation, his birthday celebration, and plans for the weekend. Instead, he is planning how to strategically take down an assassin in the halls of the very place he should go every day to feel safe and concentrate on his future.

Hearing my son talk about his affluent high school like a war zone made me realize how much trouble our kids are in. I’m proud of our school district for taking time to make sure they’re doing all they can to keep our kids safe. I just hope they’re going beyond rules and procedures, and getting to the heart of the human element of this kind of violence.

The schools can’t do it alone, and they don’t need our thoughts and prayers. They need our support and our candid conversation. They need us to be active and engaged in our kids’ lives, and the lives of their friends—to be present enough to know if they are struggling with something.

They need us to show up and talk to our kids about the hard things that none of us want to think about.




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Comment by Michelle Fisher on February 26, 2018 at 1:02pm

It sounds like your son is a beautiful Soul. This has been weighing heavily on my mind for a long time, I have come to some conclusions and the solution to the problem would take years to start fixing and with all of the rights we have, compliance would be minimal. For one thing, each generation of new parents want to be "cooler" than their parents so as time goes on, kids are gaining freedoms like never before. Then there is the introduction of GMO's into our food supply which is altering our bodies and minds, In the 50's you did not see mini women & men running around in middle school, you could hardly tell the sexes apart. Now we see girls with DD's at 10. All of the hormones and genetic altering that goes into the plants also goes into the animals we eat because they are eating these toxic plants and also getting dosed themselves, and there we get a double dose of Bio engineered plant and animal alteration in everything we eat. The surge of hormones are causing serious behavior problems in our children, who are sitting on their video games for hours on end engaging is make believe violence. From there some kids just end up uncontrollably violent or have sociopathic tendencies.Society as a whole is desensitized to violence and value on life. I do not even like guns, I would never own one, but..Guns have been around forever. My husband carried his to school and kept it in shop class during hunting season. All the boys that hunted brought them in for cleaning in Shop class. School shootings were unheard of. Now in present day society, we have to live in fear of what kid or crazy is going to get ahold of one. If someone is going to kill someone they will find a way, gun or not. We do need to find ways to make it harder for the wrong people to get their hands on one, but that is still just putting a band-aid over a broken leg. It's only a tiny part of the solution that will not solve the problem.

Comment by Zephonith Serpent Woman on February 24, 2018 at 1:19am

People in China know how to protect themselves, and don't have to hide behind guns like cowards do when forced to fight. It seems as if guns are so ingrained into the human psyche because of patriarchal war god brainwashing over millennia that it seems a hopeless struggle to try and convince many individuals otherwise. I wonder what normal people think when they hear gun advocates talking?


Comment by savlove on February 23, 2018 at 5:08pm

Temple Illuminatis, and posts by Cian specifically, account for the most time I've spent seeking information about this latest school shooting. 

For years I've been saying that "the center of tenderness has been lost". The historical documents backing up the debates swirling around Parkland argue that there really has never been much of a center of tenderness to begin with.

Nevertheless, the crisis in America does not resemble every other campaign by colonists to deprive the natives of their weapons. And this is why there is hope. Children are much smarter than ever. I was smarter than my parents, but nowhere near as smart as young people are smarter than my peers.

Comment by Linda M. on February 22, 2018 at 5:25pm

You have your opinion and I have mine....that's fine with me.  However, your quote was wrong, as seen below.

Comment by Linda M. on February 22, 2018 at 2:23pm


  • A fear of weapons is a sign of retarded sexual and emotional maturity.
    • This is not a statement that has been found in any translation of any of Freud's known works. It is a paraphrase of a statement from the essay "Guns, Murders, and the Constitution" (February 1990) by Don B. Kates, Jr. where Kates summarizes his views of passages in Dreams in Folklore (1958) by Freud and David E. Oppenheim, while disputing statements by Emmanuel Tanay in "Neurotic Attachment to Guns" in a 1976 edition of The Fifty Minute Hour: A Collection of True Psychoanalytic Tales(1955) by Robert Mitchell Lindner:
Dr. Tanay is perhaps unaware of — in any event, he does not cite — other passages more relevant to his argument. In these other passages Freud associates retarded sexual and emotional development not with gun ownership, but with fear and loathing of weapons. The probative importance that ought to be attached to the views of Freud is, of course, a matter of opinion. The point here is only that those views provide no support for the penis theory of gun ownership.
After reading of this essay and its citations, this paraphrase of an opinion about Freud's ideas has been attributed to Freud himself, and specifically to his 10th Lecture "Symbolism in Dreams" in General Introduction to Psychoanalysis on some internet forum pages: alt.quotations, uk.politics.guns, talk.politics.guns, can.talk.guns , etc.
One of the statements by Freud which Kates summarized from in Dreams in Folklore (1958), p. 33, reads: "The representation of the penis as a weapon, cutting knife, dagger etc., is familiar to us from the anxiety dreams of abstinent women in particular and also lies at the root of numerous phobias in neurotic people."


Comment by Linda M. on February 22, 2018 at 11:17am

Cian, I have friends that hunt and I go by what they have told me.  You sound like an old high school friend of mine.  He told me to give it up and don't even try, because evil will find a way.  And this is from a minister....But you have to try and at least make it harder, a bit.  If I had taken that attitude, the 'give up and don't try, because what's the use attitude, with my autistic daughter, and keeping her in school, they would have shipped her off to BOCES, and she would never have gotten an education.  

     I am a pacifist, and a gun will NEVER be in my home.  That does not mean I have  a retarded sexual and emotional maturity.  So, does that mean that Ghandi or Martin Luther King Jr had a retarded emotional and sexual maturity too, just because they didn't think like everyone else?   I think not.  

Comment by Zephonith Serpent Woman on February 21, 2018 at 10:58pm

A mirror image of a seriously fear ridden culture. The only solution is to ban all firearms around the world - but that's wishful thinking on the never-never. No more guns-no more killings. No more nukes - no more Hiroshimas. No more fossil fuel industry - the list goes on and on. Good guys-bad guys - it's all very subjective. What a fuck-up

Comment by Linda M. on February 20, 2018 at 11:21pm

Me too, Don, same year too.  People get up in arms(bad pun)when we scream gun control.  We don't want to take away your guns.  You want to hunt, then hunt.  I've had an old friend of mine suggest bow hunting, like he does.  You don't need 'army grade' guns to hunt, there would be no animal left.  You want a gun for protection, fine.  I'm a pacifist, but you want a gun, it's your life.  (just don;t tell me I can't have an abortion because YOU don't beleive, but I digress.)

     We need more mental checking, and the stores can't be so greedy as to just take the money and run.  

     It used to be cigarettes were the 'in' thing, and advertised on the tv, and money donated to politicians.  But even they through time decided to put out information on how to quit if you wanted to and offer help.  Now why can't the NRA do the same thing, offer background checks and not just take the money and run.  

     Would there still be guns out there...yes, but it would be a start.  We need to stop the blame game and offering prayers, and actually fix the problem here.

Comment by Mystic Wolf on February 20, 2018 at 6:32pm

When I was in high school in 1976 there was never such madness in our school

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