Idle Threats?

Let’s hope so.  Yesterday, a mother of one of my son’s classmates, informed me that a boy, let’s call him Rambo, in our children’s class, had told her daughter that he was going to bring a gun to school and shoot everyone in the class including her, but excluding two particular boys, whom I guess he likes (unfortunately, my son wasn’t one of them).  Her daughter sees this boy regularly in their neighborhood and on occasion they play outside together.  Apparently, this isn’t the first threat he has made to her, or to other kids on the block.  His threats run the gamut from the basic I’m going to kill you, to I’m going to kill you and feed you to the cheetahs (cheetahs are the girl’s favorite animal), to just, I’m going to kill all the cheetahs.  He certainly is creative for a first grader.

I am somewhat friendly with the mother of the girl, and have met Rambo several times. We were invited to his birthday party in the beginning of the year.  He can be obnoxious, but then again, so can a lot of kids, mine included.  He also seems to have ADHD, at least I am told.  This is important to the story, because Rambo’s mother, who I have also met, says that they are still trying to find the right cocktail for this kid.  Some meds seem to make him more aggressive, without some meds he’s more aggressive…you get the picture.

His threats have had somewhat of a domino effect.  The girl who was told that she would be killed, we’ll call her threatened girl, told another girl in the class about how Rambo said he was going to bring a gun to school.  That girl was still up at 9pm crying, when her mother finally called the other girl’s mother to find out exactly what was said.  The next day, the crying girl’s mother and father were in the principal’s office demanding some action.  Frankly, I don’t blame them.  If my son had told me the same story, I’m not even sure I would have sent him to school.  In the meantime, threatened girl’s mother emailed the teacher to let her know what was being said and called the guidance counselor to discuss the matter.  Here’s how the school handled it, the teacher called Rambo’s mother and told her about the threatened girl’s mother’s email, assured threatened girl’s mother that she had nothing to worry about, that the boy just has a lot of “problems.”  I’d say so. The guidance counselor waited twenty four hours to get back to the mother (I guess she was busy attending to the other mass murderers in our school), to basically tell her that she was overreacting and that the boy was just having trouble making friends.  I can’t imagine why?  So, what do you think happened from there?  Well, Rambo’s mom called threatened girl’s mom, they’re neighbors and I had assume somewhat friendly. In fact, one of the last times I saw Rambo’s mom was at threatened girl’s mom’s Willow House party. As an outsider to their neighborhood, I thought it was all good in the hood. Apparently, not.  According to threatened girl’s mom, Rambo’s mom was calm about the matter, but didn’t really address her concerns, she just asked that next time there was a problem with Rambo, she call her first, instead of the school.  I think she had a good point.  I mean they are neighbors and have obviously been in each other’s houses. Though, I totally understand why threatened mom didn’t call Rambo’s mom first.  That’s an awkward conversation to have with someone, especially when you have to live next to the person.  And let’s face it, people don’t like to hear that their kids are talking crazy, you never know how someone is going to react.  Apparently, in this case, eerily calm.  Maybe Rambo’s mom is just a really good listener, or maybe she’s just used to it, who knows?

My thoughts?  Well, for the most part, and from my tone, you could surmise that I’m not too concerned. After all (and I pointed this out to threatened girl’s mom), my son spent the first three months pointing his finger and shooting at his first grade teacher.  At our parent teacher conference, his teacher told me that at one point she said to him, first son, “you can’t keep shooting at me.”  As I cringed, swearing up and down that we don’t let him watch violent movies or play with guns, all I could think is, thank goodness she has a sense of humor.  I’m sure there are some districts that would have suspended him.  I also know that he plays imaginary cops and robbers type games on the playground and I hear them talk about “shoot guns”  all the time.  I told him once that perhaps he shouldn’t play those games on the playground, to which he told me that it was only pretend, in a tone that said how stupid can you be, conveying the little known fact that perhaps it isn’t always children who are lacking common sense.

On the other hand, I would be being completely dishonest if I didn’t tell you that the detailedness of Rambo’s threats does disturb me a little, and upon learning that the family own’s a bar, I asked threatened girl’s mom, “Do they have a gun in their house?” Don’t ask me why I associate bar owner with gun owner, but I do.  She didn’t know.  And that my friends, is where my problem lies.  If this boy has access to a gun and if, let’s say, his parents aren’t the most attentive (and again, I can only go by what I’ve heard and witnessed), well, then maybe I am a little worried.  Then, I reread what I wrote above and think, maybe I shouldn’t make light of this.  What if this isn’t just a kid making idle threats?  And then I feel my blood run cold.

I mean the kids in first grade, it’s not exactly like he could score some firearms on the internet.  If he has no access to a gun, then I have no worries, the kid’s probably just watched one too many inappropriate movies or heard his parents mutter, “I’m going to kill you,” one too many times.  Which, by the way, I made the mistake of saying something similar to my kids, forgetting that, uh, they are kids, and then had to listen to second son ask me if I was just kidding.  Not my proudest moment, but you get the point. What if my kid had went into to school and told his teacher that his mother threatened to kill him?  It’s a fine line, and you can’t always believe kids.

The little part of me that worries stems from Columbine, because after that, the world changed, especially the world of education.  I was teaching during that time and I never walked into a pep rally again, without thinking what if…What if one disgruntled kid has a gun?  What if today was someone’s breaking point?  What if, what if, what if…?  It bothered me so bad, that when I was pregnant with first son, I made sure that I always stood next to a propped open door.  Cowardly?  Maybe, but I had a kid to give birth to. So, I get it.  I get threatened girl’s mom.  I’d be the same way.  I get Rambo’s mom, my boys say crazy things too.  I’m not sure if I get how the school handled it. I don’t know if they should have called Rambo’s mom and told her about threatened girl’s mom’s email, it seems akin to forwarding someone’s email without their permission.  Obviously, if she had wanted to contact the other parent, she would have done so herself.

Unfortunately, the world is not black and white and neither is the world of teaching or parenting.  It is very much grey.  Sometimes, you just have a make a judgement call.  The school’s judgement call was to have the guidance counselor speak to the class about what is appropriate and inappropriate to say.  I’m going to kill you, being inappropriate, or as first son told me, he would be “terrified” if someone said that to him.  First son is famous for making other people’s statements his own, in this case, the guidance counselor’s.

Overall, crucifying a first grader for lack of discretion is probably not the best course of action.  I think this kid’s going to have a tough road ahead of him either way, I don’t know if branding him a mass murderer in grade one does him any good.  I hope he gets some help, in making friends, in finding appropriate language and the right mix of medicines (and really hope first son’s not in his class next year).

In the end, I will follow up on this story, because as much as I do believe that it’s about a kid repeating idle threats and maybe lacking in some discipline (with perhaps some medical problems thrown in the mix), Columbine happened and that memory will never be erased.

One thought on “Idle Threats?

  1. Interesting story. You know we are overreactors and yes, we probably would have contacted the school also. I would have thought they would take those things more seriously. And I think gun access is an important point why it should be taken seriously. Just the other night at dinner with a few moms, someone said (& I can’t remember where she heard it from – a cop, tv show, educator, etc.) that on a playdate the first thing you should ask is if there’s a gun in the house and if so, does the parent know how to use the safety. I would never think to ask that and if I did, it would be awkward to do so. But think of a neglectful parent who doesn’t lock the gun away and a curious, non-reasoning 7 or 8 year old wanting to look at a ‘cool’ gun. Children that age don’t have the reasoning skills and the knowledge of right or wrong to know that they shouldn’t be handling a gun and the consequences that would come from accidentally shooting it. (I mean think of all the stupid things we did when we were young that we would never do now). I think it’s hard to approach another parent about a concern like that especially when it’s serious.

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