Yesterday was supposed to be my catch-up day, a day to run errands and get some work done, but a flu-ish little boy meant that I had to modify things a bit and had a side-kick for the day. We happened to be coming home from grocery shopping when I drove down Woodroffe towards the lils’ school. Noting a couple of police cars on the side of the road, I assumed that there was an accident, and slowly moved towards the school. I saw pretty quickly that there were not two cars in front of the school, but closer to a dozen police cars. My heart leapt into my throat; this was not at all normal. The worst case scenarios began to run through my head.
I turned into our community, and drove parallel to the back of the school, on a route that took me towards the church where the students are evacuated to in an emergency. I hesitated for a brief second, trying to decide if going to the school would add to confusion. I didn’t care, I needed to get Goose.
As I parked the car, I saw two moms walking out from the church lot with their children. One of them very calmly explained that there had been an intruder in the school, he’d had a replica gun, and that he had been apprehended without anyone being harmed. She’d read in my face that I was panicked (apparently I was looking a little green) and it was a composure that I desperately needed. When I entered the parking lot, I was amazed at the lack of chaos. The classes were sitting in their groups, for the most part quietly chatting and engaged by their teachers. The teachers looked stressed, but very together. After a quick word with her teacher, I grabbed Goose and carried her to the car, hugging as tightly as I could.
The rest of yesterday was a blur. I cuddled and read stories, made jell-o, offered sundaes, and baked their favourite muffins, all the while answering their questions as best as I could. The answers ranged from: yes, there was a man in the school, he was probably sick and needing help; I don’t know why he did it or where he came from; it’s Ok that you were wearing your inside shoes outside; I promise you can get your lunch bag into morning and am sorry that you don’t get to eat today’s lunch. All of the questions were their way of processing, so we worked through it.
I knew that the rest of my community would have questions too, questions about who he was and how he got into the school. I know that this was a scary experience, but after hearing from school officials, and what was relayed to the lils in their classes, I firmly believe that this was a cry for help, despite the appearance of threat. Yet much of the discussion surrounds how the school can be made more secure.
As a parent of two small people attending that school, I want to ensure it’s a safe and nurturing environment. Simplistic approaches like buzzers serve only to reinforce the notion of school as jail. These systems would not have prevented the events of yesterday, nor will they prevent similar events from happening in the future. They are security theatre, designed to make one feel better about a specific situation, without actually doing anything concrete. If someone really wanted to bring harm to those attending the school, they would have, and could have adapted had these measures been in place.
I now know that the teachers and staff know what to do in an emergency, that they will take excellent care of my children despite being scared, and that the police response is way more efficient than I ever thought it would be. THAT is what makes me feel more secure. What I would like to see come of the events of yesterday is a discussion about how the mental health needs in our community are not being met by the current system, and how we as a community can help, not some knee-jerk reaction that isn’t going to “fix” anything.