Friday, January 27, 2012

Gun-toting student made a mistake, but let's keep our perspective

By Mike Ullery

Chief Photographer

A young man from Troy is in hot water after he allegedly carried a loaded handgun to school last week.

Troy High School took the appropriate action by immediately suspending the 15-year-old, who also was arrested and faces criminal charges.

As news of the incident came to light, everything from coffee shops to social media were buzzing with the news.

The incident was the hot topic on Facebook, both on local television stations' and personal pages. Almost everyone was chiming in with an opinion.

What surprised me — I should not say surprised really, as not much really surprises me any more — was the number of people, mostly adults, who were quick to level blame on Troy High School and/or the youth's parents.

Let me tell you something folks, this same thing could happen to any one of us. This same thing could happen at any school.

That statement does not mean the schools are lax on security. It does not mean that teachers and administrators do not pay attention to what is going on within their buildings.

Short of strip searching every student who comes through the door, there is no way to monitor every item that enters the building with students. Even then, there is no 100 percent guarantee.

I know that some schools, particularly inner-city institutions, have begun using metal detectors. Do any of us really want to go that far? Many students already feel that school is like a prison. How do you think they would feel if metal detectors were used?

The fact that most schools require us to be "buzzed" in, is to me at least, already crossing the line. I understand the need, but lament the necessity.

School officials can only do so much. To lay blame on them is unfair.

Speaking of unfair, a number of people were also quick to lay blame on the parents of the accused in this case. Ok, his father owned a handgun. Many of us own weapons. Many of us have raised our children to respect a firearm and educated them on the responsibilities of owning or possessing a weapon.

I do not know if the handgun in question was locked up. It really does not matter.

The bottom line is that, as a parent, there is only so much that we can do when it comes to our children. They are human and they make mistakes. For those perfect parents, or maybe childless adults, who were quick to blame this young man's parents for his taking a gun to school, I have a news flash ... our kids don't always obey us. The don't always think before acting. Teenagers are in a hurry to grow up, and in attempting to do so, they sometimes make bad decisions. It is part of growing up.

Granted, some of those decisions have more long-term implications. We have all made bone-headed decisions at one time or another. It does not mean that our parents were bad. It does not mean that our parents were incompetent.

As for this particular case, I feel that Troy City Schools officials must stick with their zero tolerance policy and do what is necessary to teach this young man the error of his decision. It must also set an example for others. The criminal charges against him will run their course, as well.

I also feel that everyone involved needs to remember that they are dealing with a young man who made a mistake, a serious one, but still, a mistake.

If expulsion from school is the punishment handed down, I hope that school officials will work with this young man and his parents to help them arrange for home schooling, or some other alternative, to keep him on track with his education.

I do not know the young man in this case. I do know that "writing him off" because of this incident would be a mistake.

Then, and only then, would his parents and the school be to blame.

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