When you dropped your child off at school today, did you take an extra moment to notice the lock on the front door? The security doors in front of the office? Did you double check the entrance to the main school building and think, “how easy would it be for someone to get in?” I know I did. Or were you simply blocked from entering your child’s school, when you were once a welcomed visitor?
All across the country, parents and school officials are struggling with ways to handle the fallout from the Newtown tragedy: Emergency meetings to review and improve security policies, emails to parents detailing the plans for discussing the events at school, updates on drills and emergency procedures. People want to do something. At my daughter’s preschool, which is nestled on a college campus, the door is always unlocked, parents are encouraged to come and go as they please, and access is easy. I hadn’t really thought about that. Until now. The Newtown tragedy has taken some innocence from all of us.
In some schools, that means totally shutting the door on mom and dad. This week, when parents are showing up for their day to volunteer, or to help out with the holiday party, many of them are not getting further than the parking lot. Considering the horrific events in Newtown, when an unwelcomed visitor made his way in, it seems an understandable reaction: Staff and students and that’s it. Everyone else KEEP OUT.
Except , that doesn’t feel right either. After all, research shows that students perform better when parents are involved in the schools. Parent volunteers in classrooms, presence at special school events, as teacher’s helpers, as field trip chaperones ... the list goes on, and schools’ needs are typically endless. When kids see that their parents are a partner in their education they get the message that school is important to the family, it is worth everyone’s time, it matters. Having us there motivates them, supports them, encourages them. Not to mention, it helps give us a firsthand look at what is going on in the school, and how our kids are navigating it all, spotting potential problem areas and working with the teachers to make it a positive experience for everyone. What a shame to take that away, along with the innocence that was already lost on December 14th.
This trend of “protecting” schools by banning parents has grown in recent years, and we can only expect it to become more of the norm in the wake of the Connecticut shootings. Is taking out such a huge element of support, such a valuable aspect of our child’s education, really the answer?
What to say that hasn’t already been said about the tragedy in Newtown. We are weeping for the victims and their families, we are grappling for answers as to how it happened, we’re searching for ways to finally put an end to these horrific violent acts, and we’re hugging our children a little longer than usual, finding comfort in the most mundane aspects of everyday life that remind us how good our “problems” really are.
We are searching for the words to say, and the things to do to make sure these innocent lives were not taken in vain. No one can be blamed for just trying to do … SOMETHING during a time of such powerlessness. Of course we will stumble as we let our thoughts clear through the angst, the fear, the sad haze that surrounds us, in order to make thoughtful, reasonable decisions. Hopefully we can find a happy medium in our reaction to this horror, and not let this gunman steal more from us than those precious lives.