The Florida Shooting
Here’s what’s new. In September, a man contacted the FBI because a guy named Nicholas Cruz, left a message on his web board, saying he was going to be a professional school shooter. The FBI re-interviewed this guy yesterday.
A student, walking down the stairs with Cruz — after the shooting (he initially escaped by walking out with other students) made a comment to him that she thought, “Oh…I thought it would be you…(the shooter)”.
Administrators, counselors, school officials and other students had all repeatedly reported Cruz for threatening and erratic behavior, to the degree he was already banned from the school campus with a backpack.
Multiple videos are/were on line, of course, with him threatening others and of course, displaying weapons, and targets, he had ostensibly riddled with bullets.
This young man was mentally ill, needed help, sent multiple warning signs and was on law enforcement — and the school administrations radar — and yet; he was able to acquire dangerous weapons, bring them onto the campus unchallenged, and kill 17 people.
I asked myself this morning, why didn’t this happen to my son and/or daughter?
And the answer is multi-layered.
Although I think this could happen anywhere, I don’t think it was as likely where I sent, for example, my daughter, to high school. I’m not Catholic and am not rich, but I did spend a lot of money, money I really in all honesty — did not have — without loans, sacrifices and every compromise available – to a Catholic High School not so near where we lived. In other words, this also entailed a huge amount of driving and waiting in parking lots and car pickup lines, many miles from home.
But I did all this for a reason other than the fact that my daughter wanted to go there.
I also did it because they took everything seriously there. Everything. Every little factor is studied, weighed, judged, and accounted for. Fundraising has a committee, events, and goals and builds goodwill toward the school. Academics are superb and constantly watched over by the administration, faulty peer review, outside auditing, parent auditing, and a statistical analysis. Orientation involves meeting and sitting through a class, like she would attend, every year she was there, with the teacher she would have.
The building is always “locked” down, and in perfect condition, you can’t enter it except through a door the main office controls. And they watch. During the main exit and entrance hours, there is Montgomery County police car and officer at the school. Right in front. Every time.
Athletics were also handled with precision and professionalism at the coach’s level and with very high parental involvement. In fact, parents are involved at every level and they encourage this to the point that even if you didn’t start out as one of those parents who were inclined to be highly involved — they turn you into one.
And of course, they monitor the mental health of their student body. Constant interaction, and discussion, a feedback loop of extraordinary depth existed there. The students are involved as well, with an honor code and a strict behavior code, the school kept things under control to the point that that when problems arose with a student, which happens everywhere, they were on top of it early and from what I witnessed – were aggressive about making sure the student got help BUT were also aggressive about making sure the campus was protected.
I’m not suggesting this could not have happened where my daughter went to school, tragedy like this is indiscriminate, but I do think the kind of extraordinary commitment to professionalism at all levels, including security and mental health assessment underway at all times at the Catholic High School she attended, made it far less likely and also greatly increased the odds she would enjoy her experience there and go on to college, both of which fortunately happened.
Most people reading this will say, yea, but society as a whole, cannot do that, we cannot all afford private schools. This is actually untrue. Montgomery County spends nearly as much (within 10%) to educate a High School senior as the average Catholic High School does. The difference is, if I send my daughter to a private HS, religiously based or not, I pay the entire freight, and I don’t get a tax break or deduction to help, the state of Maryland specifically opposes a policy of supporting private schools and of helping them with funding and/or tax breaks. It’s a union thing.
So, I’m paying for schools in my taxes, just not the schools my daughter used, those I paid for separately, which of course then, became a gigantic burden and raises the perception in peoples mind that private schools are too expensive.
Simply put, if the tax and school funding formulas were changed around like Trump would LIKE TO DO, I think it’s feasible to provide safe, well run, and high achieving schools right here in America. We just need private school efficiency and management principles, injected somehow, into our public school system. I believe the public system must remain, although I believe it would be healthier if it were smaller.
In other words, make the two system’s competitive with each other, and also more balanced in size with each other. Do this by making funding available (through tax deductions), for the private system, which would cause that system to flourish, changing the mix between private and public, which would also greatly benefit the public system. Costs per pupil could rise if pupil numbers began declining. Class sizes would naturally shrink in the public system, allowing the level of change necessary to rescue our public school system, which is suffering from more than just shootings.
The shootings are a symptom, a symptom of something deeper; a loss of faith, a loss of precision, a loss of commitment from school administrators, a loss of discipline by students and faculty alike, a loss of cultural respect for education and educators, a loss of compassion for the mentally ill, a loss of the capability to spot them, help them — and protect ourselves from them.
If doing all this again sounds impossible, I can tell you, I saw it done.