I attended Washington Middle School. I remember walking the halls, playing on the field, attending classes in A, B, and C halls, and eating lunch on the benches. This was years ago, but some of my best memories were made within the walls of WMS or La Washa as we called it. When the notifications of a school shooting at my alma mater came in, my heart dropped. This hit close to home.
My daughter is in seventh grade this year. Under different circumstances, she could have been among the students that witnessed this grave tragedy. Endless scenarios and questions have been running through my mind. What if? What if she was there? Why didn’t someone say something? Is my daughter safe? Does she know what to do in an emergency? For many of these questions, I do not have the answers. All I can do is focus on what’s within my control, and that is not very comforting.
Middle school is hard.
The years between being little and not quite big enough are tough. Sixth, seventh, and eighth-grade years are filled with so many challenges: schoolwork, peer pressure, social media pressures, self-image struggles, puberty, and so much more. For many children, their friends, teachers, and school are their safe haven. On August 13, 2021, a terrible act of violence took that safety away from so many.
Another school shooting . . . but this time it’s in my community.
Bennie Hargrove reportedly stood up to a bully, trying to deescalate a conflict. His fellow student fired at him with a gun he had brought from home, and Bennie tragically succumbed to his injuries. No one wins. So many have lost so much.
My deepest, most heartfelt condolences and prayers go out to the family and friends of Bennie Hargrove and to the children at Washington Middle School. Our community will feel the deep impacts of this tragedy for years to come.
Families are broken, friends are in shock, students and educators are left with questions and fear, and our community is wondering why this happened– and how to prevent it from happening again.
School shootings have been devastating our nation for far too long. From Columbine to Sandy Hook, Roswell to Aztec, we know that something needs to change. As I scroll through social media, I see many suggestions from gun control to criminal charges for all parties deemed at fault. I wish I had the answer. I’m sure many of us wish we had the answer.
Unfortunately, it’s complex, and the solution is even more complex. At times, an answer seems almost hopeless and impossible. But we can’t give up. We, as a community, can pull together to bring hope and strength back. Our children deserve it.
Have a Conversation
This guide, Answering Tough Questions From Your Children, provides an excellent starting point for the difficult conversations that lie ahead. I started here when the questions started rolling in. I’ve had open conversations with my children to discuss the situation and answer their questions. Admittedly, I do not have answers to all of their questions nor am I equipped with the tools an expert may have. School counselors or experts in the community are great resources and some are available via telehealth counseling.
It’s so important to talk to our children about bullying. I do my best to ensure that my children know right from wrong, are held accountable, and treat others as they wish to be treated. When they leave my home, I hope these lessons stick with them. I do my best to lead by example, but that may not be enough. One “mom of a bully” shares that we cannot “let our parenting guard down.” We must “stay present” in our child’s life. Ask them how things are going. Demand more than just the “it’s all good” generic answer.
Lend a Helping Hand
Perhaps we need to extend our reach as parents. If we want to see change in our communities, maybe we need to lean into those communities. Volunteer at the school, help with after-school activities, get to know fellow parents, check on the kids that need a little more support, and be present to the point of annoyance. I understand and fully recognize that not all parents have the privilege of doing this — this is why it “takes a village!”
The whirlwind of emotions since August 13th has been tremendous and will continue in our community for the foreseeable future. I hope and pray that, as a community, we can work together to find a solution so that this does not happen again. For today, I’ll love my children a little harder and listen a little more.
A memorial at Washington Middle School and a GoFundMe have been set up for Brave Bennie.