Thursday, November 21, 2013

Gun Threat at School - What Would You Do?

We got the call at 9:15 last night. It was a recording from the principal of my son's middle school. "Excuse the lateness of this call, but I think it's important you know that yesterday after school one student reported hearing another talk about bringing a gun in tomorrow."

The principal wanted us to prepare our children to see police at the school. She wanted us to believe she and her staff would do everything they could to keep our son's and daughter's safe.

Mark Twain School, Silverton, Oregon
I considered not waking my son this morning. Let him sleep in, I thought. He hadn't been feeling that well anyway. Let him have the day off. But I didn't do that. Instead, I woke him, we talked about breakfast, lunch, after school plans. I asked him if he knew anything about a gun threat. He didn't. I told him about the call and what to expect at school. He nodded, and said he'd be careful. It occured to me to ask him how he would be careful. Do you know to duck and hide under a desk? Do you even know what a gun popping off in another room sounds like? But I didn't ask him these things. No. I simply got my keys and drove him to school. There were police cars in the parking lot. Officers at the entrance door, too. News crews stood outside with cameras.

I told my son I love him, and he got out of the car and told me he loves me, too. And then he shut the door and walked away and I drove off thinking this is just so damn screwed up. What kind of mother would just drop her child off at a place where someone has threatened to bring a gun?

This kind, I guess. Me. Maybe it's denial. The refusal to believe the worst could happen. Maybe it's faith that good people prevail and that the principal is smart and savvy and was taking all the necessary precautions.

But damn, I dropped my thirteen-year-old son off at school this morning. And damn, guns are showing up everywhere and kids are using them against one another. And damn, this is screwed up. Screwed, screwed, screwed, screwed up.

Where have we done wrong?

The hapless children, the hungry children, the angry children, the drugged up children, the worried, stressed out, "what kind of future do we have, anyway?" children. We are failing. It is as simple as that. A gun in the hand of a child is a failure of a culture, not just a parent.

I dropped my son off at school today because I don't want this culture to fail. This world is sharp with edges and ignoring them won't make them go away.

I dropped my son off at school today. That was two hours ago. School lets out at three.

-Naseem Rakha
November 21, 2013 


  1. One of my happiest days was my youngest son's high school more fear of a school shooting...

    yes..I know all the stories about shooters in colleges, post offices, grocery stores, movie theaters, sporting events... It breaks my heart and freaks me out to hear the too familiar gun popping sounds in my neighborhood on July 4, New Years Eve, random Saturdays....
    And yet, I go to the movies, my husband works at a college, I go to the post office daily, shop weekly and occasionally attend football games....
    And every chance I get, I say I love you....

  2. It is really screwed up. Messy, multi-faceted, shapeless. And sad. What is the right thing to do - both in regard to decision-making under these circumstances AND in regard to helping raise communities of children who have healthy outlooks and know how to handle the challenges they encounter in healthy ways. I received this call too, and chose to keep my daughter here at home. What does this say about our most basic beliefs? A child is sent to school and a child stays home. What do we justify and what do we honor?

  3. I love your thought-provoking article. Being a high school teacher (outside of Silverton) I’ve experienced your hesitation and conviction from this perspective, and yet another at the same time. Those were some of the most uncertain, yet purposeful moments that I have endured as both a mom and a teacher.

    On both occasions I was a teacher to my students, and a mom to my own children in the very same school. Both days were bomb threats, and they were a few years apart. During the first bomb threat, as we exited the building in a steady Oregon rain, I counted the students from my class, and turned my head at every possible moment hoping to see a glimpse of my kids, my family. I needed to know that they were free of the building with the rest of us. As we stood in the heavy rain for over two hours, I witnessed high school students with enormous hearts shed their own coats to cover babes from our Infant and Toddler Centers. Then they stood for hours shivering and soaked as the rain continued to pour.

    A few years later another threat came. This time we were instructed to gather the entire student body in our gymnasium. We (my class, and my own children) stayed there for hours while the main building was searched. Teachers, fire fighters, police, and administrators together searched our school for the bomb that had threatened us. None was found. All the while, nearly 1700 students and staff hoped and prayed that all of them and all of us would be safe.

    Each of these days, and the days that followed on into years, I sent my children to school. We walked inside together, side by side. As we approached the area of the school where we needed to part ways, we hugged and said “I love you”, always knowing that at the end of the day we would drive home sharing what we learned that day.

    This young generation that we educate today is a wonderful big-hearted lot of kids that I am proud to serve, work with, and learn with. I go to work, walking through those high school doors everyday because deep down…. I feel safe and I feel our students are safe!

    In my heart I believe you did the right thing today. Kudos to you!!!