Moms Talk: New Year, New World
It seems a long, long time ago that it was fall and we were awaiting Thanksgiving and planning for the December holidays.
It's hard to believe it's been less than three weeks since a enigmatic 20-year-old shot up an elementary school in Newtown, Ct., killing 20 children and six adults. Adam Lanza reportedly had at some point attended the Sandy Hook Elementary School.
That news came just as we were all still picking up the pieces after Hurricane Sandy.
Those of us who live here can't say we were surprised by another power outage in the Somerset Hills in 2012, following two lengthy outages tipped off by the October snowstorm and Irene in 2011.
But were most of us really expecting Sandy to pack the kind of winds we more often see in news clips from storms down South? Did we think we would see giant trees stretched across major roadways for days on end?
And then, to add salt to the wounds, we were all certainly shocked by the frightening attack on firefighters in New York State, a place where firefighters have been heroes since Sept. 11, 2001.
Still, many of us managed to hit the pause button and enjoy the holidays, even with a bit of a cloud hanging over. I drove to Monroe, Ct., to see my parents for Christmas, and found myself in tears driving by some frontyard signs of residents expressing support for neighbors in Newtown. (Newtown is the next town over and the town of Monroe has donated — and worked diligently to refurbish — the Chalk Hill school that Sandy Hook students are attending, starting today.)
But now it's Jan. 2, our own kids are back in school, and there are many questions confronting us of the sort that seemed unlikely even just a few months ago.
School boards in Bernards Township, the Somerset Hills regional district and in Bedminster have gone through the process of working out a schedule for making up the days lost to Sandy. Luckily, the number of days lost off the school calendar was reduced because two days already had been scheduled as time off for the (canceled) annual New Jersey Education Association teachers' convention on Nov. 8-9.
Well, that takes care of this year, we hope. But what about next year, and the year after?
Should school calendars anticipate power outages, the way we do snow days?
Should public schools be provided with generators, so they can reopen even if power outages stretch out for a week or more? Is that acceptable?
And who might pay for those generators? Would the cost be added to the school budget? Do we think we might be able to get JCP&L to spring for — or provide — those backup generators, especially since no promises have been made that lengthy power outages won't happen again? (I won't hold my breath on that one!)
And those are the easy questions.
Police in Bernards Township showed up at local schools the day after the Newtown school shooting, and Bernards Township Police Chief Brian Bobowicz told the public at the next Board of Education meeting that the township police had in fact just finished updating school lockdown and emergency response procedures.
And all of the area school districts have offered the assurance that they have been updating security — and will review security again after the Connecticut shooting.
Still, how many of the front doors of our schools could withstand being shot open with automatic weapons. And should they? What about windows? Do we really want our children going to school locked in the equivalent of a bank vault?
Even more perplexing is the suggestion that we might arm administrators (or even teachers) to respond to an attack.
Would markmanship be a prerequisite in selecting a school principal? Do you train people in those positions now? Would someone with a gun who doesn't know how to use it be even more dangerous than someone who's unarmed? I was talking to a recently retired language teacher just before New Year's who commented wryly that she had been trained to learn French and Spanish — not sharpshooting. Is having someone in all schools who is trained to use a gun the answer?
Again, how do we want our children to spend their school days?
And who should have guns, anyway? Should there be a different standard for owning a hunting rifle — and for buying an assault weapon? Should certain weapons be made way more expensive, even if not banned outright? Should lawmakers throw up their hands and say that stricter gun laws can't be enforced anyway? Is it fair to blame guns for how they are used?
When does the right to not be shot at supersede the right to bear arms? And what constitutes bearing arms?
Plenty of tough meat as food for thought in 2013.
Please let us know what you think in the comments section below.