autism,  high school,  motherhood,  siblings and autism

Friday afternoon

Friday afternoon, while W and I were waiting for J to get out of XC practice, a reporter came up to our car with her microphone and camera.

“Can I talk to you two about the incident at school this afternoon?”

W leaned over to me and said, “What incident?”

At around 4:15 that afternoon, I received an call from the kids’ principal, relaying that a teacher had suspected a student to have been under the influence of marijuana. Upon further investigation with this student, they discovered that the student was sober–however they also found the student had brought an unloaded gun to school. The school’s student resource officer was contacted and the student had been suspended indefinitely. The principal also expressed that this incident had no connection to the previous gun threat the week before.

First day of school for all of us, 2011

After the message was finished, I hung up the phone, thought: “Okay, sounds like they handled that appropriately.” They handled the incident in the same manner as they did last week. A concerned teacher talked to the principal, the principal talked to the student resource officer, they talked to the police department. Determined it was no longer a safety threat. Contacted parents. Honestly, I didn’t thing twice about it.

“Yeah,” I said, suddenly realizing I had to explain that phone call to her. “So your principal called and said that they found that a student brought a gun to school. It wasn’t loaded. It had nothing to do with what happened last week. It’s really no big deal.”

“Like when they find kids bring drugs to school and stuff?” she asked.

“Yeah, just like that.”

“Okay.” She didn’t seem concerned either.

We got out of the car, the reporter asked us questions. She asked me if I was concerned, as a parent, to get a phone call like that, especially after the gun incident last week. I told her of course it was concerning, but the principal I felt, handled the situation well. I told her every parent right now in the country has to just put their trust in their kids’ teacher and principal to keep our kids safe. I told her I have a lot of trust in my kids’s teachers. I told her appreciated having the student resource officer in the school.

She then talked to W, asked her similar questions. W pretty much said the same thing. That yeah, it’s scary to hear these things happen at school but that she trusts her teachers. The reporter asked her “do you think the principal should have told you guys right away that they found a gun?” to which W responded, “No, that wouldn’t be a good idea–interrupt class and make everyone panic for no reason?” You could tell that the reporter wanted to put a little more drama in the story than what me and W were giving her.

W and I got back into the car. W told me, “I’m sure glad we had our talk about the gun thing last week. Going to school that day was a good decision. I think I would have been more freaked out hearing about today if I hadn’t gone.”

A few minutes later, some of the XC started trickling in from their workout. The reporter approached them the same way she approached me and W. “Can I talk to you today about the incident at school?”

Just like W, they hadn’t heard what had happened yet. They were in practice when their parents would have received the call. This made the reporter more excited. “So tell me what you think about this since you’re just hearing about it now…”

I wasn’t really processing what was happening until I saw J trickle in a few minutes later. Then it clicked: “I’ve got to intercept him before he hears what’s going on.” At about that same time, J’s coaches were coming in and told the reporter that her questions weren’t appropriate because they were still in practice.

And then it clicked for me: These kids haven’t been told yet by someone they trust–their teachers or their parents. Neither of them have been able to explain the situation to them. Parents haven’t decided how to tell them (or how much to tell them) about the situation. I had been with W (a minor) to consent to her being on camera. None of the other kids’ parents were there to do the same thing.

I’ve had the weekend to think about this whole thing and how important it is for parents and teachers to have these conversations with their children first and how inappropriate it was for the media to sweep in after school and try to catch as many sound bites from students (and the more dramatic, the better) for their 10 pm story. These kids may look older and more mature, but they’re still minors. Their frontal lobes are still developing–the area of the brain that processes information and makes decision while mitigating emotion. Some kids (like J) may have anxiety and struggle going to school because of anxiety. These reporters may end up triggering more anxiety with their questions that parents and teachers may end up trying to negotiate weeks and months later. What good does it really do to rile up a story around an incident (that was taken care of in a professional manner) when it could potentially inflict unnecessary emotional damage to our kids?

It makes me appreciate more the manner in which our school has handled the gun threat situations in the last two weeks. I appreciate the insight of teachers, their ability to approach their principal, and the relationship they have with the student resource officer and the Fargo police department. I appreciate being informed about how it was handled. And I appreciate having the opportunity to have the conversations I need to have with my kids that best fit their emotional needs.

Please follow and like us: