The writing on the wall

Tuesday morning I woke up from a deep sleep with an immediate feeling of panic.

“Ugh,” was the first thought that ran through my mind. “I can’t believe we’re sending our kids to school today.”

It was kind of ironic actually.

Not that many years ago, if I had heard that some kid at the public high school had left a death threat on the bathroom wall with a list of people he intended to kill, I would have thought, “THIS is exactly why we homeschool.”

This week, while hundreds of parents decided to keep their children home on the day the student had threatened to carry out his alleged plan to kill four classmates, we were sending our kids to school.

I had to laugh at myself. “Wow. You’ve really come a long way.”

We had a long family discussion about it the night before. Since the kid posted the threat more than a week earlier with the exact details of what day he was planning to carry out his alleged plan and who he intended to target, we decided this would probably be one of the safer days to send our kids to school. I mean, it didn’t take a lot of detective work for the local police, school staff and students to be on the look out since they were in possession of the key facts in the case.

Police had already arrested one suspect. The next day, a new threat appeared on the bathroom wall. “You’ve got the wrong guy,” it said, along with the target date of Oct. 9.

It was also the Tuesday after the three-day Columbus Day weekend. It sounded more like an attempt to get a longer weekend than a legitimate planned attack.

We asked our three high school students how they felt. I was secretly hoping they might feel too anxious to go to school that day. Were they scared? Did they feel threatened? Afraid?

Nope.

If any one of them had expressed any amount of concern, I would have lobbied to keep them home. I didn’t want them to be traumatized by walking around all day, fearfully looking over their shoulder for a possible attacker.

Their one and only concern was that they really didn’t want to sit in school all day doing nothing. They had heard that half of their classmates weren’t planning to attend.

In the end, we decided as a family that we didn’t want to let a kid use threats to decide the schedule of our local school. By not attending that day, we felt it sent a message to other would-be criminals that they can cancel school by scribbling a “kill list” on the bathroom wall.

I didn’t blame any parent for keeping their kids home that day though. Obviously, if we had been wrong in our guesses, I would be writing a totally different blog post right now. We all had to make our own judgment call, but in this case, our family took a risk that the threat wasn’t real.

In fact, I felt more nervous today than I did on Tuesday. Once all of the attention had subsided and students were back at ease, any day OTHER than Tuesday seemed like a better day to carry out some type of attack.

Mostly, the whole situation made me mad. Our kids did end up sitting in class all day long doing absolutely nothing. All of the students who stayed home were excused. And it felt like fear won that day.

Maybe that’s why I had an extra measure of bravery. While there were many reasons we chose to homeschool years ago, fear played a small part. I wanted to protect my kids from situations like this when they might be harmed or exposed to something awful. By the time we had done school at home for three years, I had been convicted that fear  — even if it was only a small part of my thinking — was not a reason I wanted to choose any path in life.

I’m relieved that nothing went terribly wrong on Oct. 9. It was a day we had been anticipating around our house for more than a week and questioning what was the right move for our family.

Every parent had to make a choice, and I know for some kids, the anxiety of going to school that day would not have been worth it. In the end, I’m glad that our kids went. And I had to laugh a few times throughout the day at how far I had come in my parenting journey to let them go.

7 Responses

  1. I lovelovelove that you sent them, that fear didn’t win for YOUR family, and that you’ve obviously raised your kids to be strong & confident. I’d be irritated, too, at a wasted day, but it’s still a personal family triumph.

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