Hold an assembly for students and a community forum to discuss the dangers of gun violence and the specific gun-related incident that occurred at MMS.
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The letter sent to Maplewood Middle School parents regarding June 3rd Code Red lockdown and arrest does not put forth an adequate response to this very grave situation. An acknowledgement of yesterday's events during morning announcements is insufficient for many reasons (not the least of which being that there are many children who do not even get to hear the morning announcement). We do not understand why you are not holding an immediate assembly to tell the MMS students anything you legally can about the incident or at the very least address misperceptions because the rumor mill is still going strong, even with the now public knowledge that the weapon involved was definitely a gun. If the gun was not loaded, for instance, or if there was no "shoot list," you can allay a lot of fears by telling that to the students. (If, indeed, those things are true.)
It is good that you are offering extra counseling to children who are having a particularly hard time with this, but the school's response cannot be so individualized. There should be an assembly, because there are certain things that every student in that school needs to hear. For one thing, it should be emphasized to the student population that whoever called attention to the presence of that handgun in school did a heroic deed. The last thing we want is for any MMS students to walk away from this thinking, "Oh, if a friend has a gun, I'd better not say anything because look at all the trouble this caused." Students should all hear that this was an extremely serious incident and that we all have to work together to make sure it never happens again. To that end, kids should be told what to do if they ever find themselves in a similar situation of seeing a gun at school. And they should hear about the seriousness of the consequences. It also needs to be stressed that, even if the arrested student didn't intend to shoot anybody, there was still a very real danger in that weapon's mere presence at the school. Leaving the response at a more individual level (i.e., voluntary counseling) will not get that message across to many children who absolutely need to hear it. What happened yesterday is an issue for the entire school to deal with, not just the few kids who felt particularly traumatized. In truth, it is an issue for our entire district, as this could have happened at any of our schools.
Moreover, we need a forum as soon as possible at which administrators and parents can talk about this episode and figure out CONCRETE steps to take to keep such a thing from happening again, and to address the overall environment at MMS and other district schools, which can be hostile and threatening. Among those concrete steps can be an assembly for gun safety education with information on how to prevent accidental shootings (one of the leading causes of childhood death).
I hope that concerned parents in this community hear back from you, or from the school board, regarding next steps.
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