And so it begins, the media hunts down any story connected with weapons and schools. It’s important for people to be aware of the issue so there is pressure on schools and the authorities to ensure schools are as safe as possible – but I fear we’re going to miss the point here.
The latest story is that at the end of August this year a thirteen year old boy was expelled from Mackie Academy in Aberdeenshire for threatening a teacher with a knife. The police were called and he was charged. This will be the first of many such stories that will appear over the coming weeks until someone is being seen to do something about it. And I understand that as a parent of three kids I love to bits, but we need to react rationally.
While I made it clear in yesterday’s blog that I believe we should open our eyes to the realities of the issues of weapons and the links with bullying in schools, the danger is there will be an overreaction that completely misses the point: School’s names dragged through the mud, young people mentioned on social media as the witch-hunt grows, hyperbolic statement from those who haven’t understood the issue.
What’s the solution? Well it’s certainly not metal detectors or security guards as Daily Mail readers will call for. It’s simple education and perhaps a knife amnesty through the police. We spend so much time talking about sex, drugs and alcohol in schools but we need to ensure our kids are aware of the consequences of even being caught with a knife in a public place. Explain why these items are not safe in schools. You know that many kids would take a knife to school to show off to their mates – the thing is it just takes one daftie to steal it and cause a scene or worse for the issue to escalate. They have to understand why you just don’t take a weapon to school in the first place.
Then there’s the bullying issue. Not only is there one between pupils, but as the story points out there are many occasions where students are bullying or assaulting staff. It takes a quick Google search to find the statistics for your local authority and the figures will surprise you. Not only are they higher than you’d think but look at how few make it as far as the police. There are issues here not being dealt with honestly.
I received a huge amount of interest in yesterday’s blog about the aftermath of Bailey Gwynne’s death and how we should deal with it. Also there were a few comments that came through about how powerless parents feel when it comes to bullying and the lack of action by schools. My dad always advocated the ‘hit them back harder’ approach, but I was the fat kid who was taunted by the bullies rather than punched and you don’t know how to “hit” back with words until you’re older. By then it’s too late. Bullying is an issue that needs a higher profile both in and out of school.
When I was growing up Childline was heavily advertised and while I never called it myself, I knew that there was somewhere I could turn if things got bad. Our kids won’t always tell us if they’re being bullied but we as parents, schools through assemblies and lessons, a wider community programmes should show them where they can turn if they feel unsafe, verbally bullied or physically threatened. If we give them somewhere to turn for help that can de-escalate the issues.
Think back to when you were in your early teens. It is one of the worst experiences of your life. Your body is changing, the chemicals in your head are going haywire, your libido makes an appearance at the worst possible times (especially if you’re a boy). Life as an adolescent is horrible. Throw in bullying and weapons and you are heading for trouble.
Rather than demonize our kids in Academies – and even Primary schools – we need to have an open honest discussion about all these issues that have a direct impact on our children. We can’t make promises as the First Minister did yesterday about you kids being “safe” while ignoring the obvious, but neither can we expect the issue to vanish if we don’t speak to our own kids about such things at home.
So I hope we’re not about to experience a raft of front pages in local and national papers shocking us with stories like the one above – instead let’s start a conversation that includes our kids on the dangers and consequences of carrying a weapon of any kind, bullying others and treating others with respect.