THOUGHTS ON VIOLENCE IN OUR SCHOOLS. The Chai Center, Dix Hills, NY
After the Texas massacre at the public elementary school, I was pondering to myself why yeshivas and parochial schools have been spared the senseless murder of school age children. There is only one incident that I recall. A deranged individual killed five Amish girls and wounded five others at the small Amish school. He ultimately killed himself. The perpetrator was not a student, but rather a loony in his 30s who simply hated women. Most, but not all the other killings, were at the hand of fellow students.
You have to ask yourself why the United States has suffered through 288 school shootings since the beginning of 2019, while Mexico, the runner up, has a grand total of eight, which is eight too many.
Over the past week, I have heard quite a number of possible theories. We will explore some of these. These are not necessarily my opinion; however, I bring them here as it makes for an interesting dialogue.
A private school has way more autonomy as to whom they allow to be enrolled. They are free to simply deny enrollment for the most trivial of reasons. Growing up, I was at the end of that sword where one particular yeshiva administration brandished it like a weapon. They gave no reason for my rejection other than we don’t think that this is a good idea for this student to join our student body.
Public schools on the other hand must accept all students by its very charter. They may opt to expel a student for abnormal or dangerous behavior, but it is a choice of last resort.
The public schools are huge. They have to be, as 95% of students in any given neighborhood attend these schools. Homeschooling is a relatively small number, same for parochial schools. I went to an elementary school with only 200 other students, and the high school petered out to only 40 students.
It is so much easier for the staff to be in touch with each student and their families and be fully aware as to who needs additional help emotionally. The yeshivas pretty much have you sized up weeks before school starts. While it is true parochial schools do not hire school psychologists due to a strict budget, the teachers are the eyes and ears and the first line to address issues.
It is a current federal law that guns are not allowed to be on public school property unless it is carried by either a federal or state officer of the law. If I know this piece of trivia, then the deranged shooter knows this as well. This is not the case with the private sector. In this day and age, many if not most Jewish schools either have armed guards or are armed themselves.
It has been proven that one cannot fight gunfire effectively with a megaphone or nightstick. The most effective way to put down an armed killer is to bring forth a gun as well. This is a fact. I am not advocating gun lawlessness. Common sense must prevail and not hysteria.
VIOLENT VIDEO GAMES
I recently took my grandson to Dave & Busters, and I was shocked to see the all too real bloody and violent video games. Blood, guts, bullets and bombs were all over the screen. I get that it is a game and a load of fun, but we have to ask ourselves, is this ok. Is it too much gore? I reflect that my childhood years were spent improving my skills at Ms. Pac-Man (I got past the banana level). Not once did I think when I swallowed a colored monster that I was killing it.
I am acutely aware of the importance of separation of church and state. The last thing anyone wants is a teacher who belongs in a cult to contaminate your child’s mind with bizarre and dangerous thoughts. However, values must be taught. In Judaism as an example, the value of life is one of its basic tenets. Life is not to be wasted or squandered. Sustaining life comes before literally everything else. It is sacred and one should fight for every moment. Yom Kippur takes a back seat if fasting is deleterious to one’s health. Judaism permits abortion without hesitation if the fetus brings risk to the mother’s life.
Additionally, having faith in something greater than oneself is not to be scoffed at. Believing in a Godly world is enriching and is a gift to one’s life. Life is not arbitrary. Life is not to simply be lived until we no longer can. Life with faith can be a very powerful existence. We are here for a purpose and not to just play golf.
When the founding fathers instituted the concept of freedom of religion, they did not mean freedom from religion. It is sad that belief in a higher power is waning.
One may argue that history has shown that more people have been killed in the name of God than anything else. My response to this is not to confuse people like the Crusaders or Islamic terrorists with people of God. Anyone who kills masses in the name of God is not Godly, and in fact, God is not impressed. The Crusaders killed, raped and pillaged men, women and children. They were not Godly or holy. They were sadistic barbarians.
WHY UNITED STATES
Why do we have the notorious distinction of being the leader in school shootings? It is probably due to the ease of procuring a gun. While New York is tough on getting a pistol license, it is fairly easy to buy a long gun. I own a few of my own and it literally is a 10-minute wait for the background check to allow a long gun purchase.
If it was a longer check and more extensive, it may catch some record that the 10 minute check does not. In order for me to drive a car, I had to get a license, which aside from taking a five hour safety course and then the written test, DMV also checked my eyesight to see if I can see the signs properly. Why not make a gun safety-training course as well as a test for gun ownership. It makes sense, no?
As an aside. I attended a Memorial Day ceremony where at the tail end of the agenda, before all were dismissed, there was the rifle salute followed by Taps. In the middle of Taps, one of the rifles went off unexpectedly. The owner had not removed their finger from the trigger. I thought to myself that this faux pas should be a lesson for all in terms of gun safety.
I do not claim to be an expert in other countries’ gun laws. It does seem, however, that we need to do better.
Please feel free to share.