First Person

The Night I Learned No One Is Immune to School Violence


(Kveller via JTA) — The phone rang at midnight, jolting me awake. I smacked my husband in his sleep, annoyed that it was probably his office again, calling with some major network outage.

Only it wasn’t his company; it was the local township’s police department, informing me, as a parent, that a vicious online threat had been made against our school district, and that the department was in the process of conducting an investigation.

As I attempted to process that information in my groggy, already sleep-deprived state, I realized I needed much more detail before I could even consider going back to bed.

So I did what anyone else would do in that situation: I logged onto Facebook to see if people were talking about it.

And people were: Hundreds of people, who went from worrying about shuttling their kids to karate and dance lessons on time to suddenly fearing for their children’s lives. Some of the messages were frantic, demanding further updates and information. Others were angry. Many were confused. And most were wondering whether school would be closed.

I thought about my 6-year-old son, who always looks forward to Fridays because that’s the day he gets to visit the computer lab (I guess he takes after his dad in that regard). I thought about how disappointed he’d be to learn that school would be closed, and that he’d miss his favorite class — and how he wouldn’t get to buy the nachos for lunch he’d been eagerly awaiting all week. (Yes, the school serves nachos for lunch once a week. No, I don’t think that counts as food. Yes, I let my son indulge once a month since he eats well otherwise. Not the topic at hand.)

And then I thought about what on earth I’d tell him if the school actually decided to close. Would I share the truth? Or would I make up some story and hope none of the other kids in his class with older siblings spilled the beans later?

Sometime around 3:00 a.m., I finally drifted back to sleep, only to have the phone wake me up just a couple of hours later. This time, the message was more encouraging: After a more in-depth investigation, the threat to the school district was determined not to be credible. School would open as scheduled.

My son would get to visit the computer lab, eat his nachos, see his friends, and I’d avoid having to toggle all day between parenting a bored child and getting my work done.

Only clearly, I’m not getting my work done, because instead of doing that, I keep logging onto Facebook for more information. I keep picturing my son, waving goodbye as I deposit him in the morning drop-off loop like I do daily. Only this time I make sure to shout “I love you” just a bit louder on his way out.

Regardless of whether this is the last threat our school district receives or just one of many, I learned the hard way that no one is immune to the horrifying trend that seems to be overtaking our nation.

So as I sit here attempting to salvage what’s left of my workday, I keep reminding myself to breathe, to have faith, to take comfort in the fact that a group of students and parents had the sense to speak up and go to the police rather than ignore the threat.

But it’s hard, because instead, I keep picturing that amazing, innocent boy who I left outside his elementary school building, and just praying that the eager smile he had on his face as he entered it never fades to fear.

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