Schools, like other places in which large groups of people gather, are increasingly becoming targets of threats.
Most recently in our area, Dassel-Cokato High School was the subject, but it could just as easily been any other school, public or private.
We really have two problems.
First, there is the increasing number of mass shootings (defined as four or more people killed in a single incident) in the US.
I suspect most people would agree that even one such act of senseless violence is too many, but the actual figure that has been reported is more like one per day for the entire calendar year in 2015.
Yes, some of these took place in schools.
Second, there are the fake threats, in which the person making the threat never intends to commit any physical act of violence, but is trying to exercise a sense of power over others.
Sadly, in the world in which we live, officials have to treat all potential threats as if they are real.
Every time this happens, we, as a society, lose a little bit more of our freedom.
So, what can we do?
We can stop turning perpetrators into celebrities. This only helps to breed copycat crimes.
We can increase our efforts to ensure people get the help they need before they resort to committing acts of senseless violence.
And, we can teach young people that this is not a joke.
It’s difficult to imagine how anyone of high school age can be so naive as to not understand that there is nothing funny about threats even false threats.
There was a time when these things may have been passed off as harmless pranks.
When I was a student, there were, on very rare instances, bomb threats. I believe there were also a couple incidents in which students set off the fire alarm as a joke.
Despite these things, my classmates and I were much more concerned about being nuked by the Soviets than we were about being victims of violence at school.
I don’t recall ever even hearing about a mass shooting at a school in those days.
The world has changed a lot since then.
In DC schools last week, all students were subjected to the indignity of having their personal belongings searched when they arrived at school.
There was also an increase in law enforcement presence in the school Tuesday.
Even though officials didn’t consider the message written on the wall in the storage room to be credible, they were forced to take precautions.
This is the same reason we have to check our dignity at the curb when we go to the airport.
Arriving hours ahead of our departure time and adhering to an absurd list of restrictions are the result of the actions of a tiny percentage of the population.
Because of one knucklehead, travelers now have to remove their shoes before boarding an airplane.
I’m confident the number of actual terrorists traveling on domestic airline flights in the US is a miniscule percentage of the total number of passengers, but everyone has to pay the price.
The same is true in schools.
It’s difficult to say how many mass murderers are lurking in the halls of local schools, but I’m certain it is a very low number.
Even the percentage of the population that is stupid enough, or sick enough, to make a false threat of violence must be quite small.
But, even though those numbers are small, they seem to gain more power with each passing year.
In the case of false threats in schools, what may be some kind of sick joke to the perpetrators ends up causing real fear and discomfort in some of their classmates.
It also results in expense and inconvenience for everyone else.
When I was in high school, many of my friends owned guns, and so did I. And yet, I never had any fear of them using their guns against other students.
Somewhere along the line, the world changed, and not for the better.
That’s why things that may once have been a joke are no longer acceptable.
It’s also why all of us enjoy less freedom now than we once did.
We can’t protect kids from every possible threat today, any more than my pals and I could avoid a nuclear attack by diving into a fallout shelter every time we saw an unidentified plane overhead when we were kids.
We can’t live in fear, but we can’t live the way we used to, either, and that’s a shame.
The fate of the many is in the hands of a few oddballs, and that’s not good news for any of us.