As the mom of two school aged kids I have concerns every day for their safety at school. Classrooms and hallways aren't what they used to be. And the fact that my Middle School has a police officer present every day doesn't actually make me feel any better. But what's even scarier, perhaps, than the thought of someone sneaking in a weapon, or drugs, is the realization that our ability to simply communicate, accept and/or address differences with civility, the ability to be empathetic, to have patience, to seek understanding and common ground, each of these things seems to have flown out the (blue-screened) window. (Yes, that was me blaming this in large part on social media).
Case in point. Norfolk 4th grader is having a hard time at school. Some of the kids are calling her names, and calling her out. She's stressed and she's scared and she doesn't want to go to school. I get that. Mom tries to call attention to the problem , but gets no response from the school. So, she decides to solve this herself and outfits her kid with a recording device. Now, in VA it is LEGAL to record someone without their knowledge. Also, I'm not a lawyer, so I am not going to speak to the charges filed against her. But as a mom, and as a citizen in what I fear is becoming a less and less a conflict/resolution society vs. me/against/you, I see a few troubling problems with this situation:
Number One, call me jaded, but I remember the days when kids were expected to work out their problems themselves. Sure, if a situation was dangerous, they should seek adult help, but backyard or playground skiffs? Totally the kids' purview. But these days, it seems parents are driving the bus, so to speak, for their kids (and adult children, ask any college admissions officer) way too much.
Number Two, where was the teacher and/or school administrator in all of this? How long did the mom wait for their response before she took the solution-solving on herself? A day? A week? A month? Teachers may miss some dynamics in their classrooms, but for the school to be unresponsive is irresponsible. We all need to begin being accountable.
Number Three, what effort was made to engage the other children involved? Their parents? I remember many moons ago when new neighbors moved in. They were unfamiliar with the behavioral boundaries on our cul-de-sac (we thought of ourselves as a village, and had a silent agreement that if any parent saw something, they had carte blanche to address the child.) When the new neighbors' 7 year old son spoke to me disrespectfully, I corrected him, firmly, but fairly. And then I marched over to his house to inform the mom. The boy ran into the house, hid behind his mama, and said, "Don't let the scary lady get me." Of course I wasn't scary (ok, maybe a little bit) but the point was, I was holding his behavior accountable and he'd not experienced that before. Also, I was engaging him, his mom, our community. I was having discourse. Difficult, uncomfortable, yes. But, imperative discourse.
In our current climate of "I'll show you," rather than, "I need to discuss this with you" mentality, it's no wonder this mom thought her only option was a super-secret recording. Imagine instead, if she'd empowered her daughter to face her bullies and to tell them, "When you call me names, it hurts me," forcing them to feel empathy and their own feelings? Or, to tell their parents, "Your son/daughter is being unkind," allowing for discussion, progress, community. But, when we resort to, "Don't worry, honey. We'll get them!" no one wins.