“Actions have consequences.”

Many people have heard this saying or are inherently aware of its truth. However, in today’s society, it seems almost a foreign concept. 

The anonymity of the Internet has provided a large scapegoat for many actions which would, in real life, result in immediate consequences, and the youth of today are very familiar with the lack of these consequences. But, at what point does the realization kick in that life is not the Internet? At what point do we realize that our actions have consequences?

What is being reported as a national surge in gun violence in schools has resulted in an almost immediate surge in terrified students across the U.S. These students, left to wonder if their school may be the next site of a mass shooting, are, to use the words of Dist. 94 state Rep. Angie Hatton, “justifiably terrified.” How are we preparing these terrified students to cope?

While many students have resorted to prayer and conversation to cope with the devastation, many more have chosen to ignore the trend — which is scary. However, a select few students have adopted the idea that making threats to their peers is the way to cope — which is terrifying.

Just last week, a student was taken into custody in connection with a threat to a Pike County high school. While we wish this had been an isolated incident, it’s only one in many that have occurred in the region since the Marshall County, Kentucky and Parkland, Florida school shootings earlier this year.

We don’t know the true intent of these claims. It’s possible that a student thought the only way to get the bullies to stop was by threatening them with violence (which is a conversation that needs to happen). It’s possible that a student has seen other schools be shut down based on similar threats and felt like they could really use a day off of school. It’s just as possible that there is a mental health issue in play (which, again, is a conversation that needs to happen). We’re not here to make excuses; regardless of the reason, once you put something out there, there is no taking it back. There is no anonymity in the real world and there is no “get out of jail free” card just because you were joking or because you made a mistake.

Actions have been taken for many of these students and conversations are ongoing with county entities. The Pike County Attorney’s Office released a statement last week, warning against these types of threats, saying, “Students and youth need to be careful with what they say and how they treat others in this time of high tensions.” 

A town hall forum was organized Monday night by the Pike County Schools District to discuss the issue with the community, and Kentucky legislators are having the conversation in the General Assembly. We applaud these efforts. We’re glad to see these entities using their platforms to address the crisis. However, we fear it may not be enough. The debate over gun safety and school safety is obviously important and needed in this climate of fear and uncertainty, but we can do more. We can start at home while the legislators are working on the law.

Parents and guardians should be having these conversations with their kids — conversations about treating each other with respect and about reporting issues when they come up. Every person who is in a position of authority over children should be using that position to explain that all actions have consequences — whether you’re the person who makes someone feel unsafe or the person who feels unsafe and doesn’t speak up. Students need to know they should always take these threats seriously and that law enforcement always will.

Still, talking to the students isn’t enough; listening to the thoughts, ideas and concerns of students is just as important. They need to be heard, they need to feel heard and they need to know there is a safe place to turn in the event of a crisis. Students should be talking to those in authority and students should be talking to each other. 

Having a true conversation about the threats and where to turn with concerns is an important way to promote safer schools. And it starts with you.

— Appalachian News-Express


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