Disclaimer: Long Post. This was originally written to help me process my thoughts on a series of threats made today, and I thought others might like to vicariously read it. Names have been changed to protect the identity of my bullies.
There was a school shooting threat foiled at a local high school last week because someone spoke up. Today, there were two such threats made against another high school, and the people responsible for the threat were taken into custody.
Today’s threats were specifically cited as being a result of bullying. I intended this post to serve as an outlet on my feelings concerning the trend in America concerning these attacks. I thought of Facebook threads where they post “Our generation was the last generation to play outside, to live grow-up without cellphones, etc…” and I inserted “We were the last generation to grow up without the fear of being shot at school.” But then I thought on it longer.
Not even I went to school without fear of being shot, I remember these events clearly. At my elementary school, (public), they had this gaudy sign that I see even now in memory, that read “We have a zero tolerance (or lower) for bullying.” This sign is just as amusing to me now, as it was then. In 3rd Grade, I had two bullies who regularly made my life a waking nightmare. Both of them threatened to shoot me on more than one occasion: Leviticus, and Marlow.
Marlow was in Junior High, 13 or 14 years of age, I never knew. He bullied me for ages, but it was in 3rd grade that it became most pronounced. Leviticus was a high schooler, I had the misfortune of running into him on more than one occasion.
When I was first told by Marlow, “I have a 36 gauge at my home for you.” I had no idea of what that meant, but my parents did. When they approached the school, he was not expelled. Remember: Zero tolerance, or lower. I was told that a 36 gauge was a shotgun. And that if he ever came near me again, to tell someone. He did, and so I told. He maintained his enrollment at that school until well after I left the school in 5th grade.
Leviticus was another story. I would use the bathroom more frequently than other children in the school due to my medical condition. Leviticus was fond of cigarettes. He was not fond of me being in there with him, but I had to do what I had to do. He cornered me on multiple occasions in a stall, pushing me back to where I stood between the toilet and the cinder block walls, and he would crowd me until there were just a few inches between us. He would threaten me that if I told anyone he was smoking, he’d kill me. I had no intentions of it, even before the threat. But the threat was made regularly.
After the school’s exemplary handling of Marlow’s threats, I held no belief that telling anyone would do me any good.
Through 4th and 5th grade, the bullying continued. One day, the whole school was called to an assembly. We were shown a presentation on Gun Violence, and the importance of speaking up if we saw someone, or knew of someone, who had a gun on them on school premises. I found out a day or so later that a person in High School had a gun, and his girlfriend had told the authorities about it, and his plans. The boy was removed from the school, and to my knowledge never came back.
Looking at these events as an adult, I’m not sure why my school didn’t take a firmer stance on Marlow. But I saw it mentioned today that these intended attacks were meant as retaliation for bullying that went unchecked. I would bet the little bit of money that I have that schools are still not treating bullying as seriously as they should.
Until schools address bullying as they should, I doubt things are going to change. I do not vindicate the would-be shooters, I never once thought to do what they attempted. But did they try and alert the school to their situation? I would very much be interested in seeing that information, and how the school used that knowledge.
I have my own kids in school now, and I will turn the experience I had in school to guide them down a better path. I will remind them to be excellent to others, and to not live second-guessing themselves, as I have done most of my life. As parents, we have a duty to ensure we are raising good children, with the ability to think of others, and how our words and actions will impact them. I’m glad everyone is safe today, it could have been much different. To those who reported these shooting threats, thank you. Today you made a difference.