The mantra of They're Our Kids is that it takes a Village to raise OUR KIDS. Today in Danville, it took a Village to locate one of OUR KIDS.
At Danville South Elementary School, a 10-year-old boy refused to go to class and left the building and the school property. A community-wide search ensued, involving school officials and multiple public safety agencies. The result of the search was the best possible outcome: the boy was located safe and unharmed a few blocks away from the school.
An incident such as this one begs the question, "How can kids just walk out of school?"
From the perspective of a substitute teacher, the answer is simple: they just walk out the door.
Every classroom I've ever taught in has had somewhere between 20 and 25 kids in it. I am usually the sole adult in the room, with the occasional teacher's aide or other staff member dropping in from time to time.
Throughout the day, kids have to use the restroom. Kids get sick. Kids arrive at school late. Kids leave school early for family reasons. Kids migrate from one classroom to another for math or reading, speech or RTI. Kids are pulled from the classroom for testing. I could continue for quite some time. There are countless legitimate reasons why kids leave the classroom without the entire class. It's simply not feasible to keep an adult with every child at all times in school.
So if a kid is motivated enough, as the young man was today, leaving school is as easy as simply walking out the door. It's not like they have to chisel their way through a brick wall or tunnel underground for several hundred feet.
An incident like today's, however, is an anomaly. A fourth-grader walking out of school without permission is incredibly rare. Because an incident like this is such a rarity, schools in Hendricks County are not surrounded by 20-foot fences, barbed wire, and guard towers on each corner of the property. Our kids are in school, not in prison.
The most important thing to take away from today, in my opinion, is that the Danville South Elementary staff jumped into action as soon as things went sideways, and they joined forces with the Danville Police Department, Danville Fire Department, and a number of other public safety agencies to quickly locate the missing child.
The school communicated very well with all of us parents, and the staff kept the students safe, calm and focused on learning all day, even with the hubbub that was taking place all around them. A job very well done by everyone involved. My third grader had no clue that anything was going on until after school. My fourth grader was generally aware that something was up because of extenuating circumstances, but she said it didn't disrupt her day much at all.
Undoubtedly, the school will sit down and review its policies and procedures as a result of this incident, but I'm hoping that no knee-jerk decisions are made. This was an anomaly. On the vast majority of days, the vast majority of elementary school students do not leave school without permission. Making everyone's lives more restrictive and more difficult because of the rare behavior of one individual on one bad day is not the answer.
The answer is for us to talk to our kids, parent them, and instill the importance of proper behavior in them. When we do that, the vast majority of our kids' days at school will be perfectly normal.
Will every day be perfectly normal? Of course not. There will be anomalies. There will be emergencies. That's life.
As long as we're talking to our kids, let's also explain to them how, in times of an emergency, it's extra important to stay calm, listen to adults, and follow their instructions. When we do that, the damage caused by these anomalies will be minimal. How we react to emergencies is just as important as the preparations we make to avoid them in the first place.
The school (and our fantastic Village!) showed today that they are clearly adept at responding quickly and effectively to an emergency. From the outside looking in, things went about as smoothly as could be expected under the circumstances.
Unless we put up fences, barbed wire and guard towers around all of our schools, kids with sufficient motivation will find a way to leave school if they want to. And even if we do turn our schools into prisons, kids will still find a way to escape if they really want to.
Let's not even start heading down that path. Instead, let's step back, take a deep breath, talk to our kids at home, and ensure that today's events remain an anomaly.
And let's take an extra second in the morning to give our kids a kiss, tell them that we love them and that we can't wait to see them again...after school is dismissed!
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