Without much reaction, I read the email from Steve Unowsky, Superintendent of Richfield Schools. I figured his email was a patterned response to the Florida shootings, stating the school takes all threats seriously.
Immediately after I received a text from Juan Jose’.
Did you guys get an email from school?
Yes. About your safety.
Yeah. I’m not sure what it says on the email.
His text compelled me to read Unowsky’s email closer. I sat upright. My senses now on high alert. Email came at 9:30.
I wasn’t alarmed because of my experience with the Richfield school district and the Richfield police department. I trusted that the school and police department had matters in hand and that the safest place for Juan Jose’ and Crystel was to remain in school.
On many occasions, I’ve interacted with school administrators because of concerns for my own children or other children. At times, I’ve asked them to intervene and have a conversation with Juan Jose’ or Crystel, or to check in on another student that might be struggling. There are times I’ve been an advocate for my children and at times, against my children’s wishes, a proponent for Richfield schools.
Richfield administrators have regarded my concerns seriously and with empathy.
Jody and I also volunteer at many school events and have been active in Juan Jose’s and Crystel’s sport activities. This has allowed us more occasions to interact with teachers, coaches, and school officials.
As an active volunteer police reserve officer for over ten years, I trust our police department and the men and women who serve.
Even so, I imagined something happening, not today, but in the future in Juan Jose’s classroom. Tears welled up. Stop it, Beth, I told myself. That’s not what is happening now.
I continued my text: If anything ever happens let me and Mama Jody know. We can go home and put on our police reserve uniforms and be near the school. I’ll forward Unowsky’s email to you.
He responded: Kids are leaving school because of the email. Parents are just pulling them out.
It felt important to keep Juan Jose’ and Crystel in school. To trust what I knew that I could trust. My experience with Richfield schools and the Richfield police. I don’t think we need to do that. It’s just a message saying they are on alert. I sent you the email.
I got it. I heard a couple of people saying their parents want them to go home.
You’re okay. They are just checking out rumors.
I know. Just checking in.
I sent a heart emoji. If we get a call out to be a presence around the school, I’ll let you know.
Okay. Thumbs up emoji.
Just read this email. I agree. Jody texted.
A little later Juan Jose’ texted: Everyone is freaking out. I’m like the only one who’s not.
I didn’t want other students to see Juan Jose’ and Crystel leaving. They know their moms are in police reserves. When Jody and I are at school events, we are also watching over their kids. Please tell your sister. There is nothing to worry about. If there is Mama Jody and I will come to the school.
Okay but I never see Crystel.
Send her a text. It is helpful being a part of the police department. And Mama Jody and I are. Mama Jody and I even have patrol tonight.
Jody texted. We just got an update from Unowsky that basically confirms decision to stay at school. I forward to you.
Juan texted: There’s a few people who have just left class.
A little later, Everyone left. He sent a photo.
Woah. Not you, though. I texted.
Ya smiley face emoji. I was proud of him.
I’ll pick you after school, I said.
That evening volunteering as police reserve officers, Jody and I spent time being a presence at the Richfield middle school dance and at the High School for the girls’ senior night basketball game. Both events were mellow and low key.
I continue to trust the Richfield schools and the Richfield police department.
Because, I trust you and me. We are the police. We are the school. We are the community.
What an important lesson for keeping a level head and not giving in to fear. Not so easy when it comes to your kids.
Thanks, Beth, for sharing this and being a presence in the community.