On the same day of the massacre at Stoneman Douglas, my daughter accepted a position as a substitute educator in a nearby district. I should have been elated that she got a job, right out of school. Instead, I almost felt paralyzed and numb with fear. Would gun reform be enough? Could such a thing happen here? Would she risk her life for the sake of her class?
Fear turned to anger, as I slowly began to realize that protecting children from gun violence was never what she signed up for in the first place. Educators are there to teach children about subject matter that will get them through certain aspects of their lives, such as math, science, social studies and English. Many take their work home with them in the evenings, and they work tirelessly over weekends and school breaks to ensure that their students not only have grades on papers, but a lesson plan that is engaging and interesting. They don’t make a whole lot of money, so many take on side jobs over the summer to help them make ends meet. Foolishly, we as parents assume that teachers “have the entire summer off to do things they want to do.” While there are some days that educators can spend some free time with their own family, there are so many other details that occur behind the scenes that we don’t see, or even understand. Overworked and underpaid, is it any wonder that teachers look forward to the end of the school year, to decompress and recharge? And now we’re requiring them to serve as a buffer between shooter and student. Unreal.
When my daughter attended Hicksville High School, I worried for her and her classmates daily. As a nurse in the school district, I was involved in required school crisis drills, to educate students and staff regarding gun violence. While we sat in locked classrooms in the dark with paper over the door windows, I began to question why we had allowed things to get this bad, and how to put an end to it, once and for all.
My husband and I discussed this at length the other night. We came up with a few solutions that we thought might work, but everything we suggested costs money that school districts just don’t have. Metal detectors, armed guards, single entry into the building, and student identification badges that confirm with a computer scanning system were suggested by my husband. As a nurse, I felt that too many emotionally and mentally-ill people fell through the cracks in the system, and stronger background checks were required, including licensure requirements. Purchase of a rifle can take about a half hour as store owners run a quick background check, and a buyer can walk out with one without a license. Handgun licensure in New York State is between three to six months.
Please be aware that my views are not those of this paper. That said, I don’t believe that civilians should have semi-automatic weapons in their possession at all. These are weapons that should be used by the military and law enforcement. Bump stocks should be illegal. Those with a history of violence or mental health issues such as delusional behavior and/or someone who has been deemed a threat to themselves or others should be rejected for gun licensure immediately, and a system should be set up to flag these individuals. Video games and song lyrics have become altogether too violent, which encourages children to believe that they can “just shoot” someone that they have a problem with.
The first line of defense begins at home. We have become a nation that is distractedly addicted to our electronics. We encourage our children into this addiction, by allowing them to use cell phones to scroll through social media, instead of getting outside and speaking to each other. Our children are lacking in social skills, and it’s time to readdress this issue. We need to really listen to our children, because if they’re having a problem in school or feel like they don’t fit in, these are the kids who will have emotional issues in the future. We are parents, and we need to start acting like it. Our kids have enough friends. They need guidance and direction, and it’s grossly unfair to force that responsibility upon our educators.
School shootings, stabbings, and incidents with intentional use of vehicles to harm don’t occur often, but when they do, their capacity to shake us is tremendous. Each one of us has a voice. It’s time to use our voices together, to ensure that our community, and especially our children, are safe and will be able to come to school without fear. A friend of mine told me tonight that prevention is always the best medicine. In the case of mass shootings globally, let’s hope that it is.
Patty Servidio has lived in Hicksville since 1992.