A couple of events have combined to keep Amy home from school today.
I first got word of the bomb threat when a friend called last night to ask if we'd heard about it. She filled me in on the details of a Letter From The Principal that went home to some parents stating that a few schools in our district had received letters saying bombs would go off at those schools today. While there was no such threat received at Amy's school, the possibility existed that some mail was a day behind, and that made the danger a little more direct to us.
Viv and I were left to ponder the moral question of whether or not to send Amy to school in the face of what is probably a prank, but one that is being investigated as a viable threat. A few details emerged this morning in two newspaper articles about it, but the situation was still sketchy enough to make keeping her home an option.
Given the horrors of school violence we've seen over the last several years, there is not a lot of difficulty in putting credence into random threats, even when they come from children. While there have always been pranks and cranks and hoaxes, the cloud of terrorism that has moved in -- because of global political changes as well as media and business practices -- has put new considerations into our heads.
Where do we draw the line in reacting to threats? What if such a letter arrived once a month? Once a week? How do we measure the menace? How does a parent evaluate the credibility of a threat ten minutes before the bus comes to pick up his child?
Ideally, in this case we would like to have seen the evidence itself, the threatening letter, but time for scrutiny and the scrutiny itself was not available. The police were not about to fax copies of the threatening letter to all who might ask so that we ourselves could make the call about the level of its danger. And what responsible authority would tell us not to worry and to send the kids to school in spite of the news?
Strangely, weirdly, I feel almost fortunate that factored into this equation was Amy's big bloody nose last night. She gets them every once in a while, they can be frighteningly long in duration and, well, you know, it's blood coming out of my kid's head. Sometimes lots of it. On a couple of occasions the bleeds have happened while she's at school, prompting the nurse to call and say please come pick her up because we don't have that many tissues here and some of the other students can't swim.
The delicate nose-healing process coupled with the concern for keeping Amy free of shrapnel was enough for us to opt to keep her home. Still, I felt oddly guilty when I called the school to report that Amy would not attend today, particularly after reading about parental reaction in the newspaper. There seem to be two schools of thought in reacting to terrorist threats and no one wants to be a student of either. When the school secretary asked (with a stronger curiosity than usual) if Amy was sick I said she'd had a big bad bloody nose and that we were going to let the girl clot at home.
In a sense, coincidence came to our rescue and saved us from having to come right up against the moral commitment, but still, the fluidity of my position right now isn't comforting.
The strong bully-hating upright citizen in me wants to say screw the cowards and the pranksters and just send my kid off to school to show that we won't be threatened. But she's my kid. I don't have a lot of spare ones lying around. With the risk, I may exhibit some character, but that's only if that risk is successful. Major "if" there. Detonations have a way of making us rethink our woulda coulda shouldas.
Erring on the side of caution isn't as bold as simply carrying on without regard for terrorism, and it may be a de facto knuckling under to it, but at least we get a known result in this case -- my child is still breathing. Beyond that safety, however, lie the twin bugaboos of fear and intimidation, in our own adult thoughts and perhaps hunkered down in the dark edges of a kid's mind after she's heard the word "bomb." It's in those places that you may need a squad to go sniffing around gingerly for something which may not go off for a long long time.
What would you do?
"Matter of fact" -- Roni Size -- RONI SIZE - REPRAZENT/NEW FORMS
"Starvation, and not sin, is the parent of modern crime."
- Oscar Wilde