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April 7, 2011

Back in My Day

Amanda Haddaway

I’m not sure that I’m old enough to start conversations with “back in my day,” but the recent events at Tuscarora High School have caused me to reflect on my childhood and my experiences of being a Frederick County Public Schools student.


Things have certainly changed, and not for the better. It is a sad day, indeed, when a child feels compelled to bring a loaded handgun to school for fear that something is going to happen to him on his walk to or from school. There are still a lot of facts that need to be uncovered in this situation. Early comments released by the State’s Attorney’s office, the Sheriff’s Department and the Frederick County Board of Education indicate that the incident may be related to gang activity and may have something to do with a previous altercation.


Back in my day, the only guns that students brought to school were for hunting and those were only allowed to be secured in a gun rack in the back of one’s pick-up truck. Even that was a stretch for some school administrators.


Back in my day, there weren’t any gangs. Well, maybe there were and I was naïve; but gangs were something that we only heard about in movies and in news stories about big cities. Certainly, my classmates weren’t involved in gangs. The worst thing that we had were cliques of athletes, cool kids, outcasts, etc.


Back in my day, students respected, or at least tolerated, their authority figures at school. There wasn’t a need for school resource officers. The principals and teachers took care of the discipline just fine. The administrators also worked with the parents when a student got out of line. Parents, for the most part, disciplined their children at home and taught them right from wrong.


It has been 16 years since I graduated from high school, yet so much has changed. Perhaps the world is a different place now, but I fear what our future holds when children feel that they must be armed in order to make it safely to a place that should still be pure and wholesome. How can we protect a child’s education when we must now worry about someone acting out through violence in the classroom, or on the school grounds? How can we ensure that today’s children have a childhood free from adult concerns? What must we do as a community to help our youth become contributing members of society as they grow up?


The answers to these questions are not easy. The case can definitely be made for strong parents and strong families, but not all children are afforded a positive home life experience. Our schools must also provide an environment that promotes learning in a safe setting. We must continue to train our teachers and administrators how to spot the behavioral signs of students who may be having problems.


Furthermore, we must all become realists about youth and violence. It’s no longer appropriate to believe that these types of situations don’t happen in Frederick County because they do and they are happening more and more often.


We have gangs in Frederick County. We have students who are teetering on the verge of committing violent acts. We have children who are committing serious crimes that would earn them jail time if they were tried as adults.


We all need to wake up and realize that our little, rural Frederick County isn’t so little and rural anymore. Like anywhere else, we have bad people and we have criminals. It’s time that we all work together to help solve these issues. Pretending that the problems don’t exist or acting like our children aren’t capable of committing crimes, or being the victims of crimes, is neither appropriate nor helpful to solving the problems.


What if each of us did one thing to strengthen our children, our schools and our county? Try just one of these and commit to it for one school year or one calendar year and watch the results:


Volunteer one day per month at a local school.


Become a Big Sister or Big Brother.


Volunteer to assist with the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts.


Teach a Sunday School class.


Volunteer at the Maryland Sheriffs’ Youth Ranch.


Become a 4-H leader.


Volunteer at one of the many non-profit organizations that assist youth and families in Frederick County.


It’s time we each make a contribution, not from our wallets, but of our time. Our children need us now more than ever.


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