When A Shooting Threat Was Made At My Child's School

I can’t even begin to wrap my head around what would provoke a student to write such a horrific message...

A few weeks ago, I got a phone call no parent wants to receive, informing me a threat was made at my child’s school. My son’s school frequently relays communication via automated messages, so I didn’t think twice when the school’s number popped up on my phone or the message waiting for me on the other end. I figured it was a reminder regarding a school fair, fundraiser or some other routine notification. I was wrong.

The administration was made aware of a threatening message found in a school bathroom. The school police department was immediately contacted and thoroughly investigated this incident. They have determined this to be non-credible. Students and staff are safe but out of an abundance of caution there is increased security at the school. The school day is continuing as scheduled.

It’s difficult to put into words all the different emotions that overcame me upon hearing this message. Fear. Anxiety. Concern. Worry. Panic. It was all of these and more. Every negative thought ran through my head as I couldn’t help but to imagine the worst-case scenario.

After listening to the voicemail on repeat in making sure I didn’t miss anything, I was left with so many questions about this threat and what it implied. After all, if there was a serious enough concern to involve police, then as a parent, I’m even more concerned for my child’s safety.

After a week of semi-normalcy, details pertaining to the threat finally emerged. Written on a bathroom wall read that the school was “gonna get shot up on October 13, 2017. It’s going to be a tragedy.”

As the day was upon us, the student responsible had long-been identified and disciplined, and although that should end any potential for concern, it just isn’t that easy. Sure, there was additional police presence on property, increased security measures and the authorities cleared the individual in question to no longer pose any threat ― I was still left feeling unsettled by it all.

Regardless if the threat was cleared as non-credible and the administration tried their best to convince parents there was nothing left to be concerned about, I couldn’t help but to be drowning in worry, anxiety and filled with so much uneasiness.

Some parents pulled their children for the day. Others were completely unscathed by it all as they dropped off their children just as any other day. It wasn’t as easy for me to just let it go. Maybe it hit me especially hard, because my son is only in pre-k and would never expect something like this to happen – even if his school is K-8. Maybe it’s because I’m a first-time school parent and unbeknownst to me, these things happen all the time? In either case, this is not okay.

I can’t even begin to wrap my head around what would provoke a student to write such a horrific message threatening the lives of everyone at a school. Was it for attention? Was he or she hoping to gain popularity amongst friends? Was it a dare?

Worst of all, was it because he honestly intended to inflict harm and injury upon students and faculty? If this was the case, my mind spirals into, what if the message hadn’t been found? What if there’s a next time, but without a note? As a parent, this scares and haunts me with every breath I take.

Regardless of the reason, I’m walking away from this whole experience feeling even more powerless to provide my child security in this already cruel, harmful world that in a moment’s notice something horrifying can happen that’s completely out of my control. My job is to protect my children and keep them safe, but because of my inability to control the unexpected, I feel as though I’m failing my job as a parent. Even with my best attempts at shielding my children from any harm, this is our reality.

We can’t escape the reports of these and similar incidences happening far-too-often - without any regard to location. It’s one thing to hear about it on the news or read an article when scrolling through your news feed, but it’s an entirely different, frightening, helpless feeling when it happens to you as a parent and when your child is potentially in harm’s way.

I’m fortunate and grateful nothing did happen. I realize even more how truly blessed I am to have my child safe in my arms and have the privilege of tucking him into bed. My heart goes out to all those parents who aren’t as fortunate – wishing we lived in an alternate reality where we don’t have to carry around this constant worry and fear of sending our children to school or anywhere else that is supposed to be a shelter for safety.

Accepting and recognizing that this is the harsh reality we live in, doesn’t make the pill any easier to swallow. Throughout this experience, I can’t help but to feel even more sad and unbelievably terrified this is the world I’m raising my child in.

Ashleigh Wilkening writes at Bless This Beautiful Mess and can be found on Facebook and Twitter.