School is coming to an end, we have 8 more days of what has been a tumultuous year. Community violence in my urban NJ district is high. Three district students have died from gun violence and two of the four preschools I serve have gone into lockdown during the school day due to shootings on our streets. At the beginning of the school year, I wrote a blog post called “Full Disclosure, I am Fearful to Welcome Another September.” I can’t say that come this September I will feel any less fearful.
“Nevertheless, She Persisted” is the mantra that I have adopted over the course of these past few years. I know that I am not alone in feeling that we are approaching a critical mass of school and community violence. When will we finally address the root causes? Getting to this point is honestly exhausting!
So today was an exceptionally stressful one. While I was at one of my preschools, we heard screaming and yelling coming from the street. When I went to inspect where the sounds were coming from, I saw a man, stripped down to his jeans hollering and cursing on our city block. He was very close to the preschool and we have no security presence. It was clear that this man was actively hallucinating, fighting demons that only he could see.
My first instinct, of course, was to make sure our staff and students were safe. We quickly went into a lockout mode and I called the police. I was assured that help was on the way. We monitored the whereabouts of the man who was standing in front of our daycare, yelling, screaming and banging on the walls. It was scary, but we were on lockout and the police were coming. We waited, and waited, and waited, but there was no sign of the police. It is possible that they checked our facility, but they never came to check on us or even call us back.
The man eventually continued his ranting and raving on another block. The staff that lives and works in the city seemed resigned that this is how it is. The police don’t come unless we say there was active shooting. The police officer did ask if the man had a gun or a knife, but I could not confirm that he had a weapon. Structural inequities were clearly at play in this scenario. I live in a comfortable, suburban community 13 miles from where I work. This would never be tolerated where I live. Once again, the full weight of inequality hit me in the heart.
I called the police department back and asked why no one had come to check on us. I explained that we were still on lockout and did not want to resume our normal routine without knowing that we were safe. My tone was professional, but I was seething inside.
“Each time a man (or woman) stands up for an ideal or acts to improve the lot of others, (s)he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, & crossing each other from a million different centers of energy, the ripples build a current that sweeps down the mightiest walls of resistance.”RFK