Stopping school violence calls for community change

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Jon Lane

My heart is heavy again, with sorrow for the families and all those who have been touched by the latest school shooting.

Local readers know that I was involved in the school shooting in 1996 in Moses Lake. A 14-year-old student came into Frontier Middle School with a rifle and two handguns. He entered a classroom and started firing. A teacher and two students were killed; one student was critically wounded but survived. I heard the shots and entered the room. Fourteen students and I were held hostage. Since that time I have tried to make a difference in my community by sharing my experience and my thoughts on what might make a difference in the future.

I haven’t written or posted my thoughts on this, partly because there is no one answer, and partly because I am surely not an expert on this subject. I had an experience that lives with me every day and now may be the time to speak out.

Many immediately cry out for gun control. Yes, there should be discussion and action to get weapons out of the hands of people who have evil intent. How this can be legislated I really don’t know. I want to talk about other actions that could be unanimously supported and although not easily accomplished will make a difference.

Why do we wait until a tragedy unfolds before we come together as a community? When are we going to start making a difference every day how we genuinely care for everyone we meet? It is my observation that many of those who commit these violent acts are suffering and in many ways are also victims of traumatic circumstances in their lives. That doesn’t excuse their actions but they also become victims to the acceptance of violence in our society. Let me expand this thought.

School violence is not just about guns, it is about the breakdown of the family, the loss of faith in a Higher Being, the rancorous way our politicians act and how they are portrayed in the media. We are a world at war, with barbaric acts commonly inflicted on those who have different political views or religious values. There are violent movies that have millions of fans and make Hollywood billions of dollars; the actors become idolized and imitated. Every day when we turn on the TV we watch nightly news with shootings and violence as the lead stories. A respected news reporter stated, “Moses Lake turned to their faith communities, as though it was the will of God that there was a school shooting.” Turning to God only when tragedy strikes is perhaps a common view in an industry that informs and shapes public opinion and thought. Music videos portray violence and video games promote murder and violence without any consequence. There are books that outline blueprints for carrying out these horrific acts. Our society has embraced “freedom of choice,” a polite way to endorse the killing of the unborn. Pro-life advocates are portrayed as radical, religious nuts. God has been banned from our schools and many public places.

So what is the answer? I believe we need to become communities that make the effort to truly know each other. Teachers and the government have taken over, not always successfully, many of the roles of parents and families. Schools provide breakfast and lunch, backpacks and school supplies, counseling and nursing; school personnel spend more time interacting with students than “often too tired or too busy” parents. Broken families and single-parent families have become too commonplace.

Violence in the media shouldn’t be so commonplace without acknowledging its serious impact, especially on impressionable youth susceptible to violence. Regardless of race or gender or age or religion we must reach out and get to know, respect and understand each other. We must help each other through the good times and bad. After my incident I went to a clinical psychologist who deals with first responders who have been involved in acts of terrible violence. I went not because I thought I needed help but because I wanted to be healthy. It needs to be a sign of strength when we reach out for professional help when we deal with problems bigger than ourselves.

Be a friend to the homeless, the sick and the elderly. Reach out to young people who need mentors, teachers and confidants helping to make the world a better place. Every day we need to make a difference. Thank a teacher, offer to help them, shake the hand of a first responder, and pray for our military, local and national leaders.

School violence can happen anywhere. Love and caring about each other can happen everywhere. Don’t wait until it is too late. Make a difference every day with everyone you meet. We must replace evil with good.

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