We already know that aberrant behavior, whether it is killing with guns or bombs and/or drug usage or other demeaning, dangerous behavior can happen in any school system in any community.
We should also know by this time that it must be dealt with in community and family units primarily. The schools cannot do it for us. It just will not happen if done by the schools alone.
So, who am I to say this? Some background. We had two boys who are now men. For years before we had children, I worked as a counselor and then administrator of programs in the American Juvenile Justice System and also with teenagers labeled as emotionally disturbed in Canada.
After seeing what was happening in communities all over North America in the late 60s and early 70s…and yes, all the signs were there then. There just were not many multiple murders in the schools yet.
We bought some land in a rural area and began raising our kids in a small, rural school district where there was and still is a community. This community was and is an extended family in many ways. There were and are good teachers who lived in the community, a great 4-H program which supplanted the school and the home, some local churches which were and still are a big part of the everyday social fabric of the community, and great neighbors who might live Ç mile away, but would show up to help in times of need.
By design and some luck, we had become part of this extended community. We raised our children basically on our own land doing things on that land as well as helping neighbors on their land. We had no TV set until both boys were out of grade school, and then only Public TV.
We were not isolated as we covered much of the U.S. and even some foreign lands in our summer travels as well as lots of reading and talking about the world out there. In fact, both of my children grew up as frequent visitors to a juvenile justice program, which I administered for many years. They saw and heard a lot of stuff most adults have never seen or heard. We did, however, control the home environment a bit and that was and is by design. It wasn’t just for them. It was for all of us. It is still a safe haven…a place where we can think, and where we are not constantly assaulted by negatives.
Our kids came to realize that their best friends from those early days of growing up in that community really were friends and those kids’ parents were also real friends. Yes, we also have had some negative stuff in our schools and in our community. I remember once when a friend called me concerning on of my sons. This friend was also the principal of the local high school and he was calling me to tell me that my son had been in a fight. My son would not admit doing anything at that point. My friend asked me what I thought should happen. I think he wanted me to talk to my son. I asked him if he had seen the fight and he said that he hadn’t. There were no witnesses. I said something like, “Well, I guess you only have one set of alternatives here, don’t you? He then said he would need to suspend both boys for three days and he wondered what I would do with my son for those three days. I said, “Ask my son. He knows what he’ll be doing for those three days”…and he did. As a result of that experience and other, less traumatic ones, both boys actually got a chance to look at human relationships and what they can mean. I’m glad those experiences happened while both boys were still growing up in that community.
Oh…one more thing. I’m sure there were things that happened to both kids, which we were never aware of.
Parents don’t know everything, but we did know about their character because of the closeness of them to us and to many others in that community who felt responsible.
Kerry Gyekis of the Wellsboro area is a forestry consultant with Gyekis Consultant Forestry, serving Pennsylvania and New York.