America is still reeling in the tragic shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. Many students are organizing to get some action regarding guns and gun violence. We watch that daily since the merciless deaths of 17 people. I wish the conversation and protests were about families and schools working together and communicating better. During the last few days, I didn’t watch a lot of television but did manage to see the public defender bring Nikolas Cruz into court for arraignment and heard an interview with the Snead family who invited Nikolas to stay in their home. They reported he was respectful, courteous, loved their animals, and had never seen violent behavior during his stay with them. It made me think, “Perhaps Nikolas is a schizophrenic.”
It seems that not only was the FBI remiss in carrying out its duties, but so was the Broward County Sheriff’s department and the Stoneman Douglas High School. I’ve said to many I thought Nikolas’ postings on social media weren’t cries for help but loud screams. I saw him again in a red prison uniform. He kept his head down but I did notice his haircut, which I thought was quite appropriate for a 19-year-old.
Trying to process the information I’ve heard, it seems he had a job he handled well, and at one point a girlfriend. When I heard his fellow students giving information to authorities, none of them were particularly surprised he was the shooter. Nikolas also lost his mother only a few months ago. Nikolas didn’t look like many of the gang members I taught.
As an educator for nearly 50 years, I had many, many troubled students including teenaged felons and prisoners. I studied behavior in college and found I was able to help many of my students by getting them to the people who could best help them function better. Sometimes it was the school superintendent, a counselor, or a relative. Often, it was someone who was willing to listen and really hear the words rather than assess the problem.
Then, I heard three people speak on the subject: Ben Watson, NFL-Baltimore Ravens; Matt Bevin, governor of Kentucky; and Lt. Col. Dave Grossman. They spoke about the deterioration of the family, TV programming and video games that celebrate the “culture of death,” violence, and the dangers of political correctness and diversity. The themes were similar from three people and most refreshing.
If a person is functioning with a heavy heart, confused, and alone, I can see where they will think in confused ways, and may act out in a dangerous fashion. We need to help these people by paying attention to all the warnings Nikolas sent out on social media.
It’s social media that’s part of the problem, a big part. Have you noticed young people rarely talk? They text, and therefore, no one is looking into their eyes. They text to strangers. Technology has had some adverse effects on how we communicate. Think about it, we spend a good part of our lives looking at screens: computer, television, and iPads. Those are all air in cyber space.
My suggestions: Schools should be schools, not parents promoting abortion, sex, drinking, and combative behavior. Parents should take their role seriously; things, trips, and trinkets don’t replace values, respect, and decision-making. Social agents and law enforcement officials should do their jobs without bias and prejudgment. Peer pressure deserves a lecture from parents and teachers. Everyone is an individual. Everyone.
Ann Bednarski, BA, MS, is a Carson City resident.