Saturday, September 10, 2005

Keeping School Kids Safe

As a substitute teacher with several years' experience, I developed a sixth sense for danger on the 850 student campus for a local middle school where I often taught. Of course there were fire drills and city-wide earthquake disaster drills and even "man on the campus with a gun" drills. The kids were really good and knew what to do.

Once I was teaching when an actual fire occurred! Police sirens were screaming and fire engines were trucking up to the school while the kids were filing out of classrooms. Was there any hurry or anxiety on the part of students as smoke poured out of one of the rooms? Not a bit. They were bored as usual, because fire drills had become another rote experience. The fire was small and we were soon back in classes.

Then there came a day when something occurred that we had not experienced before. Yes, we were prepared for guns, knives, or worse, a person carrying a Bible. But not this: a mother in a new car she couldn't control, drove at a fast speed through the parking lot onto the lawn area and rammed the car into the solid brick wall of a library. Three eighth-grade girls were standing in the path of the car. It hit one of the girls and smashed her leg off above the ankle. Another sub administered first aide while I directed traffic around the scene while we waited for an ambulance.

We adults spent a lot of time protecting the kids and watching for problems. Especially where young girls are concerned. When a serious problem occurs, we are not always emotionally ready for it. Some of the teachers fell apart and had to go home. I wasn't in the falling-apart mode, but I was plainly upset. However, the bulk of the students were very practical and we did not have to close down the school. Oh, several friends of the injured girl had to go home. They were emotional wrecks.

A couple of months later, the brave girl was back at school, minus the lower part of her leg and weak from internal injuries. She continued her studies and slowly the matter was forgotten. Except for me. I will never forget. In the back of my mind, I think I might have been able to do something to protect that girl from the car.

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