Michaels: Take a deep breath, folks

Recent news was blown way out of proportion, says Kelowna columnist

There was nothing more frightening than when I sent my son to his first day of school.

It was the day I gave up control of his every activity and had to shove down the visions of him being inserted into a real life Lord of the Flies or Mean Girls.

Worse yet, were the memory flashes of my own youth where I engaged in the social wrangling that led me to me being a jerk, or being jerked around.

My great consolation, however, was the notion that times have changed. No longer is school a social experiment where strange behaviours are allowed to rage on unfettered, so long as teachings of the alphabet and basic numeric literacy are absorbed.

People talk about their feelings, and it’s become culturally acceptable now to walk to the beat of one’s own drum. We support each other.

Isn’t that why everyone and their dog marches off to the nearest big box to buy a pink shirt at the end of February? No more bullying? No more social isolation? No more judging people for not being like everyone else? Mistakes are forgiven?

I could have carried on with this belief of goodness for awhile, I think. My son’s doing well. He’s not perfect, nor is anyone around him, but the teacher is thoughtful and engaged and I no longer feel dread when I pull up to the school.

I was, however, disabused of this people-have-evolved myth earlier this month when news broke that a West Kelowna student had said something stupid. His statement was then conflated with the horrors from school shootings in the US and ultimately expanded upon beyond reason, courtesy of the internet.

Fears of violence made headlines, while school officials went on saying “no credible threat.” Nobody seemed to care that both school officials and the Mounties were saying it, either. There was the internet to feed, pitchforks to sharpen, pink shirts to burn and a child and his parents to vilify.

Reason was thrown right out the window by presumably civilized people who talked about holding a public hearing for a boy to explain why he made mistake and said something that, in any other time, would have been recognized as simply ignorant, not cause for a witch hunt.

It was stomach turning, sad and wrong. It was also a great learning experience.

For one, times have changed and school officials need to acknowledge that. Canada is not an island. Borders do not stop the tide of fear created by American violence from seeping into this country’s collective consciousness.

It’s not sufficient to say “no credible threat.” People need to know what that means.

Communication is key.

It was also a chance for us to look at ourselves to take a deep breath. Breathe. Deeply. The system isn’t perfect. Other people’s kids aren’t perfect. Mostly, though, it’s OK. It’s OK and we have to have faith that when the RCMP and the schools have assessed a threat, it’s likely they’ve done just that.

If we can’t trust that the system works, soon we won’t feel safe sending our children out the door.

And if you have questions or doubts, raise them. Raise them through the proper channels, respectfully and without causing harm to another.

Let’s not undermine the safety systems we have and give in to a mob mentality.

Being a parent is already frightening enough.

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