It’s that time of year again when kids are excited to return to school, teachers are thrilled to see new faces, and parents are relieved to be sending their children to school so laundry can finally be caught up and put up… well, maybe the parents are excited. It is more likely that the kids and teachers are more than a little apprehensive about the new year. There will be new faces, new classes, new friends, old friends, and in many cases it can be overwhelming for students from kindergarten to senior high. You can buy all the supplies and get as ready as possible for the new year, but there is some stuff parents need to consider in this new age that was not as important years ago.
Unfortunately, we live in a time of school shootings, threats that develop into actual events, and a general fear in society of what will happen next. In the midst of all this concern, kids are still kids. Kids joke, they talk, and sometimes, they simply do not think before they act. Parents, this is where you have to step up. I recently talked with a parent whose child had made a comment, a joke basically, about bringing a gun to school. While the child thought nothing about the statement, the teachers, administrators, and law viewed it a little different. The next thing that child knew, he was handcuffed, in the back of a police car, and on his way to stand before a judge. Needless to say, for a ten-year-old little boy, this was terrifying. The child explained that he was simply “joking” but his joke was taken seriously by all concerned. A frantic mother had to rush to the courthouse and address the judge. Parents, you have to take time to prevent this from happening to your child and the time to do that is now in a two-step discussion.
The first discussion you need to have with your child is about idle threats. You should explain how serious a threat can be taken by someone else, even if the child is only joking. You need to inform your child that he or she should never make statements like, “I’m going to shoot you,” or “I’ll just kill everyone,” or even something as innocent as “I’ve got a gun in my boot!” Your child should know that no threat, joking or serious, should ever be made. Along those lines, your child should be told that if someone makes a threat to harm him or her or even others, that he or she has a responsibility to inform a teacher or school administrator immediately. Depending on your child, it may be appropriate to set forth a rule or a consequence if the child does make a threat – joking or not. Perhaps your child needs to know that X-Box will be off limits for the rest of the year, or that he or she might end up in jail. You need to impress upon your child that threats, joking or not, should not be made at school or anywhere else. If needed, tell your child about the kid who made a joke and ended up before the judge in handcuffs.
The second thing you need to discuss in this area with your child is the need to not take any questionable items to school. Questionable items can be things that someone might consider to be a weapon. Some of these items are clearly marked in school handbooks, but your child may need a reminder. The child should know to never take a knife, sharp fingernail file, razor blades, bullets or shells – used or not, anything that looks like a weapon and most importantly never take a gun to school. Any of these items could result in an immediate suspension or even expulsion from school. The action could be taken regardless of the child’s age.
As you prepare to send your child back to his or her excited teachers, administrators and friends, stop and take time to have some conversations with your child. Reassure them, teach them, and make sure they know the school rules. Remind them that a joke to one person may not be a joke to someone else and that threats, joking or not, have no place at school. With a little time and teaching, you can make sure your child doesn’t make a mistake that lands him or her in handcuffs on the way to see a judge.
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