Thank goodness, school is almost over for the year. Perhaps we will not hear, on the news, of any more school shootings and stabbings until at least September.
When I think back to the time, in the 1940s and 1950s, when I was in elementary, junior high and senior high school, we never heard of school shootings and stabbings. The worst offenses were throwing spitballs, chewing gum and talking in class.
In high school, the principal would inevitably see me in the hall during class time — certainly a cardinal sin where he was concerned — even though I was in journalism class at the time. He would inevitably stop me and say, “Miss Peregoy, where are you going today?” As girls’ sport editor for the school newspaper, I would explain that I was following up on a story.
When I was a vice principal in a high school, in the 1980s and early 1990s, times were changing. Students were exchanging throwing spitballs for setting off firecrackers in class. Talking in class was exchanged for telling the teacher where to go, using crude or vulgar language, and calling anyone and everyone derogatory names. Fights abounded.
Chewing gum was exchanged for carrying a gun or blackjack, though, thankfully, never using either on someone in the building. With some trepidation I can remember being told by an undercover cop that should a gun ever go off in our school lobby, the bullet would ricochet wildly on brick walls and marble floor until lodging in someone. But, thankfully again, that never happened.
School safety has been challenged. Violence has stalked into our schools, shot and slashed and stabbed, sometimes with a target but often without a specific target. And that violence has appeared anywhere and everywhere, without respect to persons or age.
What has caused this rapid decline — in about 60 years — in some students’ conduct, as they resort to violence and acts of utter disrespect for others? Some would say that taking the Ten Commandments out of the schools has had a detrimental effect on how a few students behave in schools. Others would say that we have not paid enough attention to troubled youth who then lash out, with tragic consequences. Undoubtedly both positions are relevant, along with a myriad other potential reasons, one of which recognizes that children are being bombarded with violence, even in games.
While we may lament where have all the flowers gone, that now cover student graves, and where has morality gone, violence in our schools continues with no easy answers. But most frustrating is that today’s violent students seem to be emulating adult “role models” who do the same acts of violence in the workplace or in the movie theater or on the army base. While that is the sad commentary on the 21st century, what are we who are older and wiser prepared to do about it — politically, religiously, economically?