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Opinion

Our kids go to school in fortresses – maybe there is a better way

It’s probably naive to think things were better in the old days of the one-room schoolhouse or in some Cleaver-colored past, but there’s no way the current situation is anything we should consider acceptable.

Schools across Grundy County have jumped on a trend that has been spreading across the country for decades: When area kids go back to school this year, most of them now will be in a building that has a school resource officer on-site.

It’s nothing new and it is not a negative in it’s own right, but the fact that the world is such that communities feel the need to have armed individuals on their property for the sake of protection hints at a deeper problem. What we once thought were inviolable safe spaces – schools, community areas – now are soft targets.

But just a few months ago, we were seriously discussing whether we should be arming teachers. State Sen. Sue Rezin put the question to her constituents on her Facebook page and most of the responses were supportive. The president also suggested it in the wake of Parkland.

School security, cameras, armed guards. These aren’t problems, but they’re symptoms of a larger problem. Some will jump quickly to say the problem is guns, but they would be wrong. The ready availability of guns certainly does not help situations, but that in itself is not the problem.

It’s our society as a whole suffering from some sort of sickness. People feel like they aren’t being heard. When no one will listen to you, when everyone ignores you, the only thing left for you to do is scream. Whether it’s a literal scream or with an AR-15 in a crowded space or by harming yourselves in privacy.

The world is a hard place, and it’s easy to say get over it and wear a helmet. But there are a lot of people that can’t do that. There are a lot of people that need help or just to get a break. It’s easy to tell people to pull themselves up by the bootstraps, but that isn’t any help. They need a hand.

The fact is, none of us, no matter our level of success, got there without any help. You could be a self-made millionaire – congrats for that, by the way – but a manager had to take a chance on you for that first job flipping burgers the summer you turned 15. And you probably beat out someone else for the position.

Instead, we’ve become cold to the people who need help. We call them lazy or entitled. Some of them are, sure, but the vast majority of them want to earn their keep and don’t want to live in misery, which shouldn’t be too much to ask.

We have no adequate mental health infrastructure in America. It’s one of the first things cut whenever services need to be cut by government.

If you’re out of money and feeling depressed, there are few good options and certainly not enough for everyone in that situation. The people shooting up schools and malls and holiday parties and traffic and dorms and nightclubs and music festivals churches and military bases didn’t just wake up that day and decide.

We’re the richest country in the world and also the only country that feels the need to have armed guards in our elementary schools. There may be a need for that in rougher areas in New York, Chicago or Los Angeles. But Grundy County? Really?

We can feel safe now. Our kids have the best protection money can buy. Our schools are becoming more and more defensible. It won’t be long before they have to go through metal detectors in the morning, or be wanded as they walk into science class. We’ll keep treating the symptoms.

But what if, instead of spending money on police and metal detectors in school, we paid for mental health professionals in every community. People to see when the weight of the world gets to be too much. Instead of saying “Suck it up,” we tell them where they can get some help.

The world is full of strong people who can carry the pressures of it without difficulty, and some can even make it look easy. But we shouldn’t marginalize those that need help.

We see the effects on that everywhere right now. It’s in the security cameras outside our schools, and the security at the front of a concert hall.

Maybe we should just be nice, for once.

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