There is a high school less than one half of a mile from my home where the majority of high school students in my neighborhood attend. In fact, there are parents in my neighborhood who graduated from this same school. They are now sending and will send their kids there.
On Friday nights in the fall, if I am not attending a football game at my school, I can hear their band playing their school’s fight song. And they always have a crowd; they are the defending state champions.
I personally know teachers there – wonderful people who love those kids no matter what. Every high school in the county has students who are friends with students at this school. Winston-Salem still has that “big-town” feeling to it and in a system that allows for students to choose among high schools, there exist many relationships that are not confined by school zones.
This school is simply an excellent school full of tradition, integrity, and pride.
On Wednesday, there was a shooting there and a student was killed.
Every school in the district went on lockdown. The shooter remained at large in the hours after the shooting and concern that other schools might be targeted was very real.
There is sadness for the victim and his family. There is sadness for the school “family” as an event like this is life-altering in so many ways.
There was another school shooting this same week at a high school in Wilmington. It is the same school where my mother-in-law graduated. That school also has a proud history and lots of tradition.
That’s two shootings in North Carolina schools in the second week of the school year in the middle of a pandemic where the spread of COVID-19 among high school students is at an all-time high.
On a day where our General Assembly still has made no progress toward a new budget that amply funds public schools, made no movement to fulfill the dictates of the Leandro court decision, but passed a red-herring bill that targets a non-existing problem of critical race theory, it is easy to feel some anger on this day toward our elected officials.
Yes, we need more wrap-around services in our schools. We need more nurses, counselors, and social workers. We need to do something about overcrowded schools and these large class sizes. We need to address having more people in our schools to work with students. We need to talk about guns and mental health.
But we need to really start looking at all schools as “our” schools. That means actively looking at every school we support with our constitutional obligation as a state as the very school that teaches “our” children.
What happened at Mount Tabor High School today and New Hanover High School on Monday are not isolated events. If the years since Columbine has shown our country anything, it is that no school is immune from acts of violence and tragedy.
I do not know many people who would not try and move heaven and earth if it meant the well-being and safety of their own children.
The students at Mount Tabor and New Hanover are “our” kids. The educators at those schools teach “our” kids. The public servants who went to these campuses were there for “our” kids.
Loving “our” kids means more than just thoughts and prayers.
Loving “our” kids requires taking action and making investments in schools that do not always start out with a bottom line financially.