Tuesday, August 28, 2001

Back to school with a vengeance

If a new report from the CDC is to be believed, some kids are slipping more into their back-to-school backpacks than notebooks, pens, folders and lunchboxes. Some are slipping guns, knives and weapons of small-scale destruction. The return from summer break is one of the heaviest times of year for both school-related stress and school-related killings. Maybe instead of shopping for cute school clothes for our returning kiddos, we should be shopping for cute bulletproof vests.

Although the report specifies that school violence is extremely rare, it's not so rare that it can't be quantified. On average, there's about one school-related killing in the U.S. for every seven school days, one suicide for every 31 school days. But that's just the average.

Looked at month by month, you can start to see where the trouble spots are. In February, the rate rises to one killing every four days -- is Valentine's Day really that traumatic? September comes in second, with one every six days. Holiday spirit kicks in to keep December relatively trouble-free, with one killing every 15 days. But watch out when those kids come back from winter break.

The CDC is helpfully releasing this information just in time for the start of school, to give parents something else to be paranoid about ... er, that is, to help parents be vigilant to the stresses of school life and to help schools use their anti-violence resources most effectively.

And that's all well and good. But what I'd be curious to know is: How many IEP-related homicides are there? How many parents go postal when they find that the plans that were so meticulously made have not been implemented, the personnel and programs required are not in place, and the new teacher has not even read the IEP? I would guess the fall is second in plotted mayhem only to the spring, when those plans are made, when those IEP meetings where everybody looks at you like perhaps you need some intensive language and learning therapy before you can dare to parry with the professionals take place. Surely there is one parent every seven days who has at least fantasized about bringing small arms to the meeting, along with their tape recorders and advocates and reports that will never be read.

Hopefully there are no statistics, because those thoughts stay just thoughts. But just to be safe, Child Study Teams ought to be vigilant and implement some anti-stress programs for special-needs parents. This would involve just going ahead and giving us everything we want; or, if that's impossible, at least everything you've promised. Come on--try it. It wouldn't kill you.

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