Rows of sleepy students line up in the cafeteria to eat their breakfast, socialize with friends and enjoy their last bit of freedom before the school day officially begins.
Separated by stereotypes, the brainiacs discuss the problem of the day, the athletes strategize about the next big game, the popular so-and-sos climb the social ladder, and the outcasts do what they can to survive while swimming upstream in the sea of adolescence.
It's 7:30 a.m. - business as usual. Suddenly, an indiscriminate sound breaks the silence. Firecrackers?
The students barely have time to react as the familiarity of their Monday morning routine gives way to utter chaos. Those closest to the action realize one moment too late that they are under siege.
The sound of bullets ricochetting off everything tangible is met with screams of terror and pain. A student, cloaked in misery, stands in the center of the violent storm. In his wake, lay the wounded bodies of his classmates.
Twenty-four hours prior to his wicked rampage, the student posts a cryptic message forecasting the horrific event. A cry for help from a deeply troubled child.
It's hard to say if violent events, such as the one outlined above, are preventable. Oftentimes they occur without warning. Sometimes, however, those responsible for the tragedies leave a trail clues.
With more than half the student population of the middle and high schools active on Facebook and Twitter, policing the Internet would require a lot of time and effort. Besides, who would we entrust to do this job?
With rules that prevent teachers and administrators from friending students online, threatening posts are often overlooked. The problem is further compounded when adults choose look the other way, or pass the behavior off as normal teenage angst. Unfortunately, this inaction sometimes has devastating repercussions.
Children have been given far too much privacy on the Internet. As a result, they are getting away with posting threatening messages about classmates, teachers, and administrators. Without proper parent supervision, they are exchanging explicit photographs of themselves and others. What's more, they are plotting and planning vigilante missions to destroy their fellow students, while we sit idly by with our hands tied behind our backs.
One question remains: Who is responsible for policing the Internet?
If your child has access to the Internet and posts anything on a social media Web site, this responsibility falls to you. Yes, mom and dad, grandma and grandpa - we are talking to you.
It only takes a moment to check your child's Facebook or Twitter account, or their cell phone. If you see something that bothers you, talk to your child. If you notice a text, IM, email or post from another student that you deem dangerous or threatening, print it and take it to the principal or the school resource officer, or get in touch with the child's parents. It's that simple. If we become more proactive as parents and as a community, perhaps we can prevent a tragedy close to home. It's that important.
Monday afternoon we sat in horror as the news of a other school shooting in Chardon, Ohio was reported. Almost immediately, the same social sites used by students to bullying each other, were used to connect with the outside world, to encourage fellow students, to praise heroes on the inside, to ask "why?", and to give thanks for a second chance.
One student tweeted, "Someone at Chardon High School told the news the alleged shooter tweeted threats last night, but nobody paid attention."
Another posted, "I would never (have) thought this would happen here."
Some students made peace with enemies in the wake of shared tragedy. "Saw the faces of people I used to dislike today and felt relieved they were alive. Realized how easily everything you have can be lost."
If we don't learn from history (even if it's not our history), we are destined to repeat it. As we pray for the students, teachers, administrators, families, friends and neighbors of the victims of this senseless act of violence, let's take a moment to reflect on our own situations. Let's resolve, as a community, to keep our eyes and ears open so no school in our area is used in the same context as Chardon High School, Virginia Tech or Columbine.