Keeping it safe [Editorial]

Every generation of young people has it rough.

Each era has unique challenges for those struggling to grow up, fit in, make friends, avoid bad decisions, navigate a flood of emotions, acknowledge their physical persona, accept what it means for them and survive school, all while trying to stay sane.

For young people, whose emotions are often beyond their ability to cope, growing up can be really, really hard. We all know that.

No matter how worn the cliché of a teenager shouting at a parent “You just don’t understand!” might be, it’s still based in truth.

This time it’s different because these times are different. Parents do understand. More than just understanding, they also have some of the same feelings as their children.

“Students are scared, I know there are parents that are scared for their children, there's no doubt about that,” Matt Resnik, an 18-year-old senior at C. Milton Wright and the student representative on the Harford County Board of Education, said.

Resnik was talking about the 17 people, including 14 students, murdered when a gunman opened fire Feb. 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

“Students go to school every day not knowing what is going to happen,” Resnik said in a text message. “With all of the shootings, students become more [worried] every day.”

Resnik is right. Students are scared. Parents are scared. Grandparents are scared. Spouses and significant others of those who work in the schools are scared.

Sadly, a lot of people have shared those fears for a while. It’s not only those connected to schools, but also those going to church and those going to concerts and those going out in public places and on and on.

These are the times in which we live. These are times marked by terrorists – foreign and domestic – and the terror they try to create. To paraphrase President George W. Bush on life in the post-9/11 world, if we change what we do or where we go or anything else about how we live because of fear, then the terrorists win. The fear they instilled is at the heart of terrorism.

In the week after the Parkland, Fla., school shooting, miscreants are trying to disrupt the education routines in Harford County Public Schools. First, it was Harford Tech. Or was it North Harford? Or was it just someone confusing a threat against Harford Tech with North Harford. The following day, it was Havre de Grace High School.

In the weeks before Parkland, there were threats at Aberdeen Middle and Aberdeen High schools.

We’ve been blessed in that, so far, the threats have been investigated and deemed by police and school officials as not being credible. We emphatically say so far because rational people know that what has happened elsewhere can happen anywhere.

Two things can help keep tragedy at bay: vigilance and courage. Everyone, from those in the schools daily to those in contact outside the schools with young people every day, need to be vigilant in noticing changes in the young people around them and have the courage to be safe instead of sorry by reporting concerns to authorities.

“What students need to be looking for is warning signs and reporting them to staff or a parent immediately,” Resnik, the student rep on the school board, said.

People also have to be aware of the social media use and presence of the young people around them. Often times, tragedy might be averted if responsible adults know what the kids around them are posting. That vigilance could also keep some kids, who might foolishly and wrongly, think posting a social media threat that disrupts a school day is a harmless prank.

They are no more harmless than calling in a bomb threat that forced a school to evacuate was generations ago.

Be alert and be careful out there. We don’t have any calm, uneventful school days to spare.

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