Subject Line: Shelter in Place
It’s not exactly the surprise you hope to find when you check your in-box for the first time in the morning. The subject line to a recent email said: Shelter in Place at Freret Campus.
My kids’ school. The upper class campus of the Lusher Charter School. The second time it’s happened this school year. That I know of.
This is what we’ve come to. Some angry kid says something stupid on social media. The authorities are summoned. Doors are locked. A well-practiced safety regimen is initiated. Parents are notified.
Wash. Rinse. Repeat. It’s a process that has become as numbingly routine as a fire drill or parent/teacher conference.
The email assured us that no threat was imminent, NOPD was on site, the child’s parents had been contacted, the child has been suspended from campus indefinitely – all following protocols devised for the school by the ominously titled Altaris Security Consultants.
(Actually, that sounds more like one of those new prescription medicines that advertise incessantly on daytime TV. Do not take Altaris if you are allergic to Altaris.)
Fortunately, the threat proved to be just that. Nothing more than words. No cache of weapons found. No online manifesto. No links to an Aryan terror cell. That I know of.
Just a misguided soul in the kind of red mood that makes you want to punch your locker and say, “Man, I just want to blow this place up.”
But you can’t say things like that anymore, no more than you can joke about bombs at airport security. The words, “I’m gonna kill you!” after a playground fight used to be laughed off 20 minutes later by everyone involved.
Now it can set a school into lockdown and a community into panic.
Words seem to carry more power – and punishment – than ever in before in our lifetime. Threats, insults, tirades, accusations – whether empty or intended – are the coin of the realm in our disheveled marketplace of ideas – from our President down to our third-grade classrooms.
And if the cudgeling fails, we bear arms. Sometimes. And we have to take that possibility seriously because you’ll never hear anybody wonder aloud anymore, “Where the hell would Timmy ever get his hands on a gun?”
But consider this about Timmy. (A random name chosen for illustration; I do not know the Lusher suspect’s real name. But God help me if it’s Timmy.)
Anyway, what made him snap? Was the perp a victim, too, like so many school shooters turn out to be? Bullied, picked on, alienated, angry, vengeful. And numbed by ubiquity to the truly horrific implications of the implied threat. We’re not in Kansas anymore.
It makes one feel nostalgic for the days when we crawled under our school desks to protect ourselves from nuclear annihilation.
Home school, anyone?