On Wednesday, October 12, faculty, staff, and students at Chadwick Elementary School were rushed from the building after a bomb threat was called in to the front office. This comes after two threats and consequent evacuations of River Hill High School the week before, and a suspicious car forcing a frantic evacuation of Pine Grove Elementary and Middle Schools at the end of September. After two hours sitting on the sidewalk, Chadwick students were ushered back into the building and told to resume normal activities as the superintendent of Baltimore County Public Schools held open the door and assured them, “everything is fine, we are all fine.”
School shootings and bomb scares continue to threaten young people and the adults who work with them. On Monday, October 24, two people were shot and killed at Central Visual and Performing Arts High School in St. Louis. These incidents are not isolated, they are only a few examples of the violence and fear that plagues schools across the country. Routine drills reinforce the fear. One thing is clear – the children are definitely not fine; how could they be?
While anxiety and depression are on the rise among our whole population, the latest recommendation from the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force states that children should now be regularly screened for anxiety starting at age 8. Screening for childhood mental illness can help with early intervention for various conditions, but this does nothing to address the root cause of the problem. Children and teens live in constant fear of school shootings or bombings; they witness and experience police brutality and hate crimes, hear about military conflict overseas, and feel the effects of the climate crisis. On top of this, they and their families face rising costs of living and in turn lower quality of life. They are struggling to have even their most basic needs, such as food and housing security, met.
On top of all this, rather than taking the time to address physiological, social, and emotional needs, school systems continue to push fast-paced curriculums focused on increasingly unreasonable standardized testing expectations which are made even more unbearable by the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic. Students are reduced to sets of grades, letters, numbers, and codes, and are pressured from all directions to perform well according to these measures so they might be prepared to enter the workforce and properly serve the interests of the One Percent. The capitalist system simultaneously treats children as nothing more than future workers, and exposes them to conditions that fill them with fear about their daily lives, let alone their futures. We have to break these cycles of fear and failure and the only way to accomplish this is to organize and fight the system to get what we and our children both need and deserve.