School attacks hit close to home
Police officers rushed down a hallway lined with cubbies containing backpacks, past bulletin boards featuring student artwork. Next to one classroom door, a handmade sign adorned with a sunflower featured a single word, briefly obscured by an officer's gun.
But in the wake of yet another school shooting, this time at The Covenant School in Nashville, Tennessee, it might be hard for anyone to find hope. Once again, we mourn the loss of children, and of adults who cared for them. Once again, we fear for our own children and grandchildren as we send them to school uncertain they'll be safe. Once again, we pray this will be the last time, even as we know it won't be.
Three children — all 9 years old — and three adults, including the school's top administrator, a custodian and a substitute teacher, were killed in Monday's all-too-familiar horror. Police bodycam footage showed a terrifying scene, as officers searched for the shooter. One can hear the urgency in their voices. Their quick actions likely saved lives and stood in stark contrast to the delayed reaction from police in Uvalde, Texas last May. Nashville authorities said the shooter was 28-year-old former student Audrey Hale, who was killed by police.
Violence struck closer to home Monday at Lindenhurst Middle School, where a 12-year-old boy stabbed a 13-year-old fellow student with a 6-inch knife. It's unclear how or why the knife was brought to school. Fear and anxiety rose again as news of the incident and ensuing lockdown spread and a helicopter hovered overhead.
Thankfully, the injured student is recovering. But the blood-soaked scene described by Lindenhurst Mayor Mike Lavorata is hard to imagine. Unfortunately, too many children don't have to imagine it, having seen violence and experienced trauma inside their own schools. Tuesday brought more unease after a girl at Uniondale High School slashed two other students with a box-cutter.
There's much about these incidents we do not know. Motives remain unclear. Nashville authorities said Hale was transgender, a detail some seized on to suggest gender identity was to blame, inappropriately linking anyone who identifies as transgender with mental illness. Culture war politics is an ugly, hateful way to distract from atrocious events, to take attention from victims and survivors and the urgent need to address this crisis. Hale had legally purchased seven guns, using two assault weapons and a handgun on Monday — despite being treated for an emotional disorder.
The Nashville shooting will rightly train another spotlight on the dangers of assault-style weapons and the need for more attention to mental health. The Lindenhurst and Uniondale incidents likely will generate renewed discussion about metal detectors and other safety measures.
But none of that changes the sorrow or terror parents and children face, or the fear that violence in our schools is here to stay. None of it changes the loss of that innocent hope.
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