Student Protests and School Walkouts Today in Boca Raton

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Today, in my home town, just a few miles from the Parkland shooting, hundreds, maybe thousands of kids walked out of school just moments ago and converged on City Hall. They’re pretty upset. I’ll explain why.

For those of you who don’t know, this is a blog about Boca Raton, the city that sits pretty much in front of and to the north of Parkland. Parkland is a neighboring city, the place where the recent school shooting occurred. As a parent it was very difficult for me to send my kids to school after this. Both of my kids go to middle school only 15 minutes away really from the high school where this occurred.  I go shopping in Parkland. My good friends live there. This is very, very tragic to us all.

As a parent, how I felt these mornings, sending my kids into school, was something I realized I wasn’t feeling alone. I know it’s not just felt here, not just felt by people in this area. Everyone across the nation feels extra concern for their kids sending them to school these last couple days. Everybody across the entire nation was reminded how fragile life is. We’re reminded how the systems we depend on to raise our kids, in the ways that we were raised, are actually quite vulnerable.

As someone who lives close to this tragic event, as a parent, there’s a feeling like we literally dodged a bullet. There are few reasons why it couldn’t have been shifted over a few miles. There’s no comforting reasons why it couldn’t have happened in the schools where our kids attend – just as easy.

I can tell as I drive around, talk to people, and see the looks on the faces around town. I know that I’m not the only one who’s anxious, on edge, thinking about it. It’s making us a little less patient with each other, understandably. We all have good reason to feel uneasy, anxious, upset, angry, afraid; we feel the sting of injustice. This isn’t just some inconvenience  – this is tragedy in our laps. It’s natural to feel wrong. It was wrong. There’s nothing to feel right about.

I really feel sorry for the kids. This is about them. You don’t have to be an adult to realize how close this was to home. I don’t think they feel afraid. That’s not the vibe I’m picking up off of them. I’m seeing them feel angry instead. What should they feel, to have their school experience shook like this, to have to worry about those types of things while you’re trying to go to school and get yourself educated? Is it pleasant to have your lessons punctuated by drills about shooters and bombs? All we had to worry about back in the 80’s were fire drills.

It’s nothing but tragic.
It’s on the kid’s minds and I don’t blame them for being angry. I’m angry too.
I don’t blame anyone for being afraid. I’m afraid too.

But what do we do? How do we focus that? How do we keep it from turning in against us? How do we keep it from dividing us and making us miserable, anxious against each other, living in the specter of such a horrible incident? You’re a human being. It’s happening to all of us. There’s no way it can’t hurt, but how do we stop this hurt we’re feeling from festering, magnifying, and turning us against each other?

Some people are being hurt and terrorized more than necessary, and there’s people trying to gain from it. It shocked me how many “respected organizations” stated conclusions about the event, the shooter, his motives and problems without delay. It’s like they were greyhounds in a starting gate, loaded and ready to leap out together in unison to their common dog whistle. Both the left and the right pounced on this tragedy, preying on the weakness of the community and uncertainty of the moment. Of course people want answers, want explanations, and those who reached conclusions first did so on the shakiest grounds, using it to terrorize their audience for political gain.

There are thousands of people on social media who’ve expressed emotion driven opinion, stating their own emphatic conclusions without basis except for other’s opinions. I’ve seen a cascade of “fake news” come from both individuals and from media sources who are practicing something other than truthful journalism. I’ve seen people engaging in ad-hominem, tangential attacks against the people involved. It’s not good. It only makes the problem get farther from getting solved.

There was one instance of someone sharing a still image from a video about a Parkland yearbook from last year, saying it was from a California school yearbook, telling people how one of the students there is some kind of crisis actor.  It was a Parkland yearbook. Fake social media accounts, belonging to unknown people, were being considered by both the left and the right to be credible sources. Many people are still getting deceived by info that’s been debunked in several ways.

The degree of gullibility and ease of propagation of fake news, just because it fits a narrative, is staggering. Really people. Learning how to separate the wheat from the chaff is a required skill if you’re going to go online today. It’s your responsibility to train yourself to recognize when someone wants to deceive you. If you’ve discovered that some media source is capable of being misled so easy, can you really still consider them credible?

Too few people are asking questions. Too many people are stating things as if they were substantiated fact. We do have a right to ask questions, we do have a right to be upset and be extremely critical, cynical, skeptical, and ask the same question multiple times. We do have the right to not settle for the first answer. More importantly we do have a responsibility to listen to voices that contradict the narratives we want to believe in. We can’t be afraid to be wrong. We can’t afford to be ignorant. Sometimes that means asking uncomfortable questions, or being extra patient having to answer the same obvious question over and over.

However, we don’t have the right to be insensitive, and we don’t have the right to make it about us. We all might have opinions and feelings, but how we express them to each other matters. This is the time when delivery counts the most. This is the best time to listen more than you speak. Everyone can listen together, but we can’t all speak together and be heard. Too many of the voices around this began using it immediately as a political soapbox before the smoke cleared. Now is not the time to beat political drums, capitalizing on the sacrifice of young bodies to our idols/ideals. Now is the time to listen and learn what happened.

What do I do as a parent? Keep my kids home from school? You could chose to home school your kids and practically eliminate the odds of them being in an event like this. But you can’t do that forever. They are going to have to exist in this world. Learning how to socialize in an institutional/business environment isn’t something you want to start when you’re an adult. One of the lessons my children have to learn is that there’s horrible people who do horrible things. This is the truth about the world that you can’t protect your children from forever. It’s best they start becoming aware of those things so that they can keep themselves safe from them, while the knowledge can protect them. Because as a parent there’s times you can’t.  It’s a harsh lesson, and one that steals the innocence from a child, but there’s a lot doing that today. It doesn’t have to just be close to home. Having a defense means knowing what you’re defending from.

Kids look at the news, and they see people justifying violence, glorifying violence, excusing it because of what they believe, believing some kind of injustice has been perpetrated on them that justifies it. They see lots of people being very vocal about what they believe, which is good, but it’s absolutely wrong to have that message contain violence. Kids don’t want violence, but there’s a lot of irresponsible adults promoting it.

These kids who walked out of local schools today weren’t violent, but they weren’t doing what they’re told either.  They were marching against violence. It’s distressing to be on the school faculty, trusted by parents to keep children safe, only to see those kids get out of your control where you can’t keep them safe. These kids were trying to keep themselves safe in a different way, in a way the faculty couldn’t.

These kids feel like they have to step outside doing what they’re told. Who can blame them? Protesting in a non-violent manner is an honorable and effective way to make a statement. Being united against threats, not ignoring them is what these kids demonstrated, that they aren’t going to sit down and accept it. They felt like they had to do something, so they did it. As much as I feel sympathy for the faculty I also feel proud of this generation for finally doing it. I wish my generation did it, could have been the ones remembered for not sitting down, but we sat through our threats, did what we were told, ducked and covered. The threat was more abstract, less close to home, less immediate and obvious. Kudos to them and I hope it doesn’t get them in too much trouble. I hope the faulty realizes how lucky they are to teach and learn from kids like this.

To those kids, I have to say this though: Its a lot easier to blame others or tools than ourselves. That darn guy! Those darn people! That darn hammer! A lot harder to reach out and give troubled people the attention they need. A lot harder to sit down and be seen with someone who is unpopular, crazy or vilified. Marching is easy compared to the real work that’s necessary: sacrificing your social standing to be seen hanging out with “that creepy guy”. The real effort needed isn’t the easy thing to do.

Boca High has had some amazing students, the same school that kids walked from today. One shining example of the level of excellence that’s emerged from Boca High is the We Dine Together program, invented by students for the purpose of making sure nobody feels isolated. It’s a grassroots effort intended to address what we all know to be the core cause of this tragedy: an isolated individual.

This makes the walk out of the students of Boca High today even more significant. Even with programs like this, even as those who’ve put this concept of reaching out into action, they still feel like more is needed. If these young leaders feel that they ALSO need to point to guns, name failures in the mental health system, or whatever they need to say, kudos to them for standing up once again to try to solve this threat from another angle. I’ll let any one of them post here on this site if they so desire.

You want to make kids feel better about tomorrow, more safe? Don’t ignore it. Don’t accept it. Don’t blame it on a gun. Don’t blame it on someone else. Don’t blame it on a pill. When you see something horrible, something on TV that excuses violence, point a finger at it. Don’t do it to blame – do it to take responsibility for it. Teach your kids to recognize it, that it’s wrong, and to say no to it. Listen to what they have to say. Let them vent, let them get mad and don’t try to make excuses. This world we brought these kids into has been a lot more our responsibility for maintaining than theirs so far. And even if you’ve got it really good here in Boca, it’s still obviously far from perfect. We can’t make it the next generation’s fault or responsibility –  so that only leaves us.

There are a whole line of people who want to stand there and say “guns fault” or “Trump’s fault” or “FBIs fault” or “parents fault” and they’re all standing there wagging their fingers at each other. I don’t want to stand with any of them. I’d rather be with the people who don’t wag fingers, the people who know “this is our fault”, the people who feel responsible enough actually catalyze change in their own behavior, to get their hands dirty, and not push the blame on others.

4:30 update
My kids just came home from Omni Middle School. They told me that the Principal announced a candlelight vigil in the bus loop. During that vigil students from the school hopped the fences, which were all locked. “300 I guess” was my son’s estimate of how many students left the school. They said some students were arrested and that one was even tased. I haven’t verified that anywhere yet. Most of the students made their way over to Town Center and some were part of the mass of students who converged on City Hall. Local TV is covering it and will have stories about it on tonight.


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