Why did 11 students plot to kill third grade teacher?
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My oldest is a second grader so this headline out of Waycross, Georgia really caught my attention. I simply can't imagine my little girl coming up with or participating in such a thing. And while we are all sadly becoming accustomed to the periodic school shooting spree, we also find consolation in the fact that these heinous acts are the work of one, maybe two sad, deranged or mentally unstable loners. Or are they?
The ages involved in this most recent plot are a troubling fact, but so too are the number of children involved, eleven! According to a relative of the targeted teacher, each child had a specific task in the attack, including one who was assigned to "wipe up the blood".
Ever since Columbine, I've had a bone to pick with the parents of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. While their pain and need for private mourning were understandable, I always felt that at some point since the 1999 attack, they owed the victims, their families, and, yes, even the nation an honest explanation for what happened in their homes and families that led to such desolation, anger, and violence - especially since it spawned several copy-cat plots. It would have been one of the most important national discussions of our times, with incredible consequences for the children of our country. What were the signs they missed? What are the lessons? And what would they have done differently as parents and as a family to have helped these boys be less angry and more compassionate young men?
In the aftermath of Columbine, our country and media seemed fixated on how the school missed signs, but I was always wondering how the parents missed the signs and how those boys were able to plan, make and stockpile weapons in their own home without their parents knowing? Would parents of even a trouble youth who are present and actively trying to connect with their child, their friends, school and teachers have missed these signs?
The details of this recent Georgia plot have not been fully disclosed and perhaps we will learn that third graders are not capable of successfully executing a plan with the sophistication and precision of an older child. However the ages and number of kids involved nonetheless begs the question: "Why are these and so many other kids so angry?"
For decades we have heard media report, after media report listing the usual suspects: violence on television, video games and music. We've learned a lot about preventing bullying and teaching students to report even seemingly minor threats. And while schools are becoming adept at detecting and preventing attacks, at the heart, this is not a "school" problem, this is a "family" problem. Our teachers who serve our families cannot do their job if we as parents are not doing ours or at least trying to figure out how to do it better.
We need to have this national discussion. But we also need to seek the answers in a spirit of truth and honesty. We cannot allow political correctness and fear of offending or 'stepping on toes' interfere with our search for what are surely some ugly truths about the current state of many American families and its effect on kids. Like Eric and Dylan before them, these third graders are trying to tell us something. Are we listening?
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