Protecting Our Children When Contending With Threats of Violence

04/16/2015 08:52 am ET | Updated Jun 16, 2015
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Jilted awake with the intensity of a freight train, I sat in bed, writhing in the space between dream and reality. I tried desperately to find my bearing. Eyes blurry, I scanned the room until what I sought was located. Something tangible. A semblance of where and when. My eyes fell upon the clock. It was 4:58 a.m..

My mind came into focus, dragging with it senses struggling to find their way to an awakened state, a consortium of mind-body connectivity. My skin solicited a response to the cold morning stillness. A shiver escaped. Another sign of successful re-entry. I was enveloped by a wave of relief.

I was home. My children were firmly tucked in their beds. All was right with the world.

I spent the better part of the morning shedding negative thoughts -- origins unknown, yet impactful nonetheless. There was an ominous feeling... was it my heightened intuition? I'd spent years honing this skill. I owned it. It was my early warning system. Hasn't failed me yet.

The day prior, I received multiple messages from several sources. Key words in print kept reverberating in my mind. "Alleged threat," "police investigation," "a list," "unspecified harm," "social media." I replayed the voicemail message no less than five times. Each time, it offered nothing solid I could wrap my mind around.

I didn't gain comfort from the fact there would be an "additional" police presence at my sons' middle school campus. I struggled to reconcile the fact police presence was required at all, ever. A sense of overwhelming helplessness came over me. I began to frenetically dissect the phrases in the email searching for additional clues.

My tenacity was worthy of a CSI agent.

I reigned in my thoughts and barked at my boys, "Let's get this show on the road."

We made our way to school through the wet and slippery back streets of our neighborhood. The analogy of winding streets and a journey unfolding, quickly occupied my thoughts. Today is a much different time than when I was a teenager.

The oldest twin blurts out from the back seat, "I'm on the list." My heart skipped a beat. I glared at the rearview mirror where my eyes met that precious little twin A. Nothing has changed except the man-child body that has formed around those bright blue eyes. My son reconfirms this time with conviction. "I am on that kid's hit list!"

My second-born twin chimes in from the passenger's seat. "Yeah, he's number one on the hit list!" I grappled with the concept of a hit list. The voice in my head asked, Are we talking about an episode of "The Soprano's or my 8th grade boys? And who lets a statement like that out in this post-Columbine era?

My mind raced. In rapid fire succession, a series of questions slipped off my tongue. "Who is this kid?" "Why are you on his list?" "Has he been suspended?" "Where are his parents?"

Now out of breath, I gasp for air. The little voice in my head reminds me the email message stated a written list was not located. Not convinced, I am agitated by the fact a valid threat is one that must be written down. Carrying a hit list around in your head is harmless?

Once I gained composure and gathered the shards that once comprised my whole heart, I asked, "So what exactly did you do to get on this kid's list?" A long pause ensued as my son weighed his options. He's a smart boy and knows once the momma bear button has been pushed the potential for retribution often becomes reality. There is no turning back.

My son, twin A, is a gregarious old soul who is on this earth to please. Quietly, under his breath, he said, "I did the right thing, Mom. I defended my classmate when the kid physically harmed him." Proud yet concerned, I was at a loss for words.

We arrived at school a few minutes later.

The police presence was as stated in the email message. Instead of easing my fears, it heightened them. My heart pounded. What kind of threat warrants three police cars, six officers and a K-9? If ever there were a "red flag" moment, this was it. I perused all the nightmarish visions I keep tucked in the recesses of my mind. I thought of a troubled teenager who walked on to a school campus and in cold blood, cut short the lives of innocent children. With these thoughts come the faces from TV, the family members, friends, and neighbors of the perpetrator, their voices shouting in my head, "We saw the signs."

They saw the signs.

We exited the vehicle and tentatively made our way to the school principal who was holding court in front of the school office. Several concerned parents were present. Many kept their children home. I couldn't fault them.

Upon approach, we heard the principal make a statement relative to abiding by privacy rights. I thought to myself, "Well, we aren't asking for the student's name (everyone on social media knows it by now). Nor are parents asking where he lives." It would have been helpful if assurances were provided that the perpetrator wasn't going to be at school that day. My husband and I were told once by school administration that unless a crime has been committed, everyone's hands are tied. So we would have to wait, wait for a threatening student to take action.


My mind took over with all the primal energy it could muster. I wouldn't let my children become a statistic in a world that protects those who make threats, a world that is willing to passively wait. I redirected to the car, my boys in tow.

Better to be safe than sorry. Words to live by.

I realize these are social issues for our generation to contend with. It is challenging when the rules of the game and size of the field have no resemblance to that space in time we once called childhood. I dislike having to educate my children on survival skills protecting against an enemy who looks like them. Theirs is a battle field which used to be a safe haven -- their school.

I vacillate between telling my children to do the right thing, protect others, be the hero and be fearful, protect yourself, and don't be a hero.

So, we wait.