The Grinch stole Christmas from students in Plainfield and Danville schools on Dec. 17 when threats of violence were made toward both communities' high schools, resulting in both school corporations closing all of their schools on what would have been the final day of class before Christmas break.
You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch.
However, just like the Who's down in Whoville in Dr. Seuss' Christmas classic, we will prevail. Why? Because a situation like this one makes for an excellent teaching moment with OUR KIDS.
Threats of violence are not something that Hendricks County parents are used to dealing with, so it's unnerving, to say the least.
Thousands of people were affected by the threats. In Plainfield and Danville, elementary school and middle school kids were crushed when they missed Christmas parties and performances. High school students missed final exams. Teachers missed out on their holiday plans with their students. Parents had to take off work to care for their kids who were suddenly not in school.
And, of course, school administrators and law enforcement worked through the night -- and are still working -- to find the perpetrator(s) and make sure our schools are safe for OUR KIDS when they return in January.
The mental and emotional anguish felt by parents, students, teachers, law enforcement, school officials and the entire community is incalculable.
Parents in Avon, Brownsburg, Mill Creek and North West Hendricks were also rattled. Their school corporations spent the day assuring parents that they have stepped up security measures in response to what was happening in Plainfield and Danville, and that their kids are safe.
Then there's the female Plainfield student who appears to be the primary target of the individual(s) who threatened both schools. She and her family and friends must be living a nightmare right now.
Speculation among parents now runs wild as to the validity of these threats, the motivation behind the threats, how many people are involved, what law enforcement is doing to catch the perpetrator(s), what kind of punishment they will receive, and on and on. Parents want answers, and they want them NOW, but of course law enforcement can't provide us with those answers until they complete their investigation, which takes time.
There is a reason that this type of thing is a felony in the state of Indiana. Threatening OUR KIDS and inciting widespread panic is not funny.
Growing up, my mom always told me that "your day is what you make it," and I've thought of that advice countless times in this age of terrorism in which we live. If I allow the fear created by terrorism to ruin my life, the terrorists win. If I maintain control of my life, however, I win.
So while we give law enforcement time to do their jobs, let's examine some things that we can do as parents to turn this negative situation into a positive one through teaching moments.
Parents, let's start by taking a deep breath. It's terrifying to think of what could have happened or what might happen in the future, isn't it? These are uncharted waters, and we're not sure how to handle it. This is the kind of thing that happens somewhere else, not in our little community.
It's okay to be frightened, but keep it to yourself. OUR KIDS are scared, too, and they look to us to be calm, courageous, strong and rational, not running around like Chicken Little.
One Danville Community High School student told me, "I thought the one place that we were supposed to feel safe was at school. After reading [social media posts threatening violence in Plainfield, and then Danville], I'm actually scared for my life, especially if there are kids from Danville with the same intentions."
If this student's parents show that they're just as scared, it's only going to make the situation worse. Kids look to us for reassurance and stability, not panic.
I think of it like this: people behind threats of violence want everyone else to be afraid. Are you going to let them win? Or are you going to steal their thunder by remaining calm and collected?
Be vigilant. Be cautious. Be scared on the inside. But saddle up anyway.
The Perils of Social Media
A student at Plainfield High School has been singled out by someone for, among other things, taking revealing pictures of herself. Her accuser plastered those photos all over social media and is using them as a motivator to make death threats toward her, all of her friends, and everyone else in Plainfield and Danville schools.
I don't know if the photos are actually of the female student in question. If they are, I don't know why the young lady took the photos or what plans she had for them. I don't know how her accuser got a hold of the photos or why that person acts so angry about them.
I do know, however, about the perils of social media -- specifically, that everything on social media is public, permanent and easily shared.
If there was ever a perfect time to talk to OUR KIDS about taking revealing photos of themselves, now is the time. Teaching moment: DON'T EVER TAKE PHOTOS LIKE THAT, KIDS! Pictures that are never taken can never be shared over social media.
Girls, let me speak plainly. Boys are miserable, horny wretches who are dying to share stories of their sexual conquests with as many people as possible.
Boys who claim to be sexually active are viewed as studs and move up the social totem pole. Girls who appear to be sexually active are viewed as sluts and move down the social totem pole. I know it's not fair, but that's the way our society is. Every boy's "stud" status comes at the expense of some girl's "slut" status.
If you take a "special" photo of yourself and think that you are only sharing it with your boyfriend, you are woefully mistaken. That boy is going to show and forward that photo to as many people as he can to prove what a stud he is. No matter how wonderful you think that boy is, how much you love him, or how much you think he'd never do that to you, he's going to share that photo. Guaranteed.
If you happen to make that boy mad, he's going to make it his life's mission to spread your "special" photo around school and social media as payback, showing what a "slut" you are and what a victim he is.
Respect yourselves, girls. Never ever ever ever EVER take photos like that. Ever. You now see exactly what can happen.
And parents, watch what you say, too, on social media about these threats. I've seen some really ridiculous, outlandish, and counterproductive comments and speculation on social media by parents who I suspect are just scared. Remember that OUR KIDS are watching us as role models.
Be a Parent, Not a Friend
I've said it before in relation to drugs, and it holds true here, too: be your kids' parent -- an authority figure -- and not their friend.
Talk to them. Talk to their peers. Talk to their teachers. Routinely search through their phones, tablets, laptops and other electronic devices. Search their bedrooms, their clothes, their cars, their backpacks. Be active, involved parents. Be a Villager.
Your kids live under your roof. You bought them those electronic devices, the data plan and Internet that they use, their vehicle, their clothes, and everything else. That stuff is yours, not theirs. Search it regularly. And if you meet resistance, take the stuff away from them. If they're not going to respect your authority, they don't need all the perks that you purchase for them.
You are their parent, not their friend.
If You See Something, Say Something
"If you see something, say something." This is a trademarked catchphrase of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and it's a great mantra for how OUR KIDS can help keep our schools safe.
In both Plainfield and Danville, someone saw something that they knew wasn't right, and they did the absolute correct thing: they said something to a person in authority.
Sure, the schools were closed, but we didn't have a loss-of-life disaster on our hands. That's because someone said something when they saw something.
This is another great teaching moment for OUR KIDS. Reinforce with them the catastrophe that was avoided by kids doing the right thing. Encourage your kids to report threats and other suspicious things to their teachers, school officials, and/or law enforcement.
As parents, we win in a situation like this when we stay calm and focus on how we can better ourselves and teach our kids how to handle or avoid instances like this in the future. Find the good in this situation and capitalize on it.
Law enforcement will catch the person(s) responsible for these threats. There is no doubt about that.
Now we have to step up as parents. This won't be the last scary situation that we or OUR KIDS experience throughout our lives. Use this incident as a way to turn a negative into a positive so that we're better prepared the next time around.
After all, your day is what you make it.
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