Catherine Toth Fox: We Have To Find A Way To Keep Our Kids Safe At School - Honolulu Civil Beat


About the Author

Catherine Toth Fox

Born and raised on Oahu, Catherine Toth Fox is an editor, writer, children’s book author, blogger and former journalism instructor. She is currently the editor of HONOLULU Family and lives in Honolulu with her husband, son and two dogs. You can follow her on Instagram @catherinetothfox. Opinions are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Civil Beat's views.


Before I left home on Wednesday morning, I stuffed my fanny pack with Kleenex.

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I was going to my 5-year-old son’s preschool graduation, a pandemic-esque ceremony in the school’s parking lot. Orange and blue balloon bouquets adorned the palm trees and masked parents, lei hanging on their arms, waited for their child’s name to be called.

It was hard not to think about parents in Uvalde, Texas, that morning, the day after a gunman barricaded himself in a fourth-grade classroom and killed 19 children and two teachers who, by all accounts, gave their lives to protect them. This is the week kids everywhere — including at Robb Elementary — were packing up their classroom belongings, hugging friends and gleefully heading into summer break.

Instead, families are waking up to empty beds and homes full of reminders — soccer balls, toothbrushes, blankets, photographs — of kids who are gone, moms who will never come back.

I felt so grateful and yet so guilty, standing in a crowd of parents, all of our kids safe and smiling on the chapel steps.

‘There are moms right now who will never see their sons and daughters wear a cap and gown.”

The thought strangles my heart; it feels like I can’t breathe. What happened in Uvalde seems unfathomable — and yet it happened. And it has happened before. And, unless there are major changes to gun regulations and access to mental health care in our country, it will sadly happen again.

This is not about the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. It’s about how those guns are used and who’s able to possess them. It’s about the right for our kids to go to school, to feel safe, to not have to worry about a gunman opening fire on them with an AR-15 semiautomatic weapon.

These were kids, some as young as 9. According to families on social media, several were honor-roll students. Some loved soccer and basketball. One recently celebrated her First Communion. One listened to “Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Guns N’ Roses every morning on the way to school. One dreamed of attending Texas A&M University to become a marine biologist. One had been saving up to help pay for a family vacation to Disney World.

Gone.

And to blame the school — lack of security, unarmed teachers — is ridiculous and misplaced.

After the shooting at Columbine High School in 1999, Congress started providing federal money to ramp up security at schools — campus officers, lockdown training drills — to help prevent another massacre. According to a 2018 report from the Urban Institute, 19% of elementary school students, 45% of middle schoolers and 67% of high school students in the U.S. attend a school with a campus police officer.

Even at the preschool my son attended, the students periodically practiced lockdown drills. I would see photos on the shared Google drive of 5-year-olds — including my son — huddled under their desks, hands over their heads. In preschool. The images are haunting.

A family pays their respects next to crosses bearing the names of Tuesday's shooting victims at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, Thursday, May 26, 2022. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
A family pays their respects next to crosses bearing the names of Tuesday’s shooting victims at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on Thursday. AP Photo/Jae C. Hong/2022

But I get it. These teachers — like the two who died on Wednesday — want to protect our kids. But should gun skills and survival tactics be something in their job descriptions?

A friend of mine, a public school teacher in Honolulu, took to Instagram on Wednesday, sharing her thoughts about the shooting during a break from graduation rehearsal.

“I look at the faces of the students excited to present their achievement to their parents and peers. I listen to them chatter amongst each other. I feel helpless and heartbroken. Our children should feel safe at school.”

Other educators I know circulated another post on Instagram: “Every teacher you know has thought about it.” About how quickly they can lock a door. About whether to spread out or group together. About how hard it would be to keep young children quiet.

“Every. Teacher,” she wrote.

Teachers already spend their own money on school supplies. They already work longer-than-required hours, grading papers at night and spending weekends creating curriculum. They already counsel, support, guide and love our kids. And now we expect them to sacrifice their lives to protect them?

I don’t pretend to know the answer or how to bridge the political gaps. I can’t even tell you where it all went wrong, or at what point it could have been prevented, or what I would have done had I been in that locked classroom.

That morning I listened to my son’s preschool teacher talk about the bright future these kids had — and I thought about how quickly that can all be taken away. I cried in that moment because it’s all I could do. Like my friend, I felt helpless and heartbroken.

But it’s apparent there’s more we can and should do.

Wherever you are on the spectrum of gun control, we all have to find a way to keep our kids safe, period.

Listen. Talk. Cry. Write. Vote.

Then hug your kids. Because there’s a parent who can’t.

The American School Counselor Association has a list of resources and tips to help kids after a school shooting here.


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About the Author

Catherine Toth Fox

Born and raised on Oahu, Catherine Toth Fox is an editor, writer, children’s book author, blogger and former journalism instructor. She is currently the editor of HONOLULU Family and lives in Honolulu with her husband, son and two dogs. You can follow her on Instagram @catherinetothfox. Opinions are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Civil Beat's views.


Latest Comments (0)

This concept from the NRA to arm the good guys to combat the bad guys is not without its flaws. Even if the good guys have a Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle in every school, courage is still needed to drive it directly to the shooter. If the good guys have not totally internalized the oath they promised to uphold, then the tragic event in TX will repeat every month all over the U.S.

Srft1 · 1 month ago

Just as police departments across the country are sued for the bad actions of one its members - States should be sued for the bad actions of one its well regulated militia members.

jminitera · 1 month ago

Stop giving the loser shooters the media attention they crave.The writer here did a good job of this. Thanks.

MEL · 1 month ago

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