When I saw I had received an automated phone message from McMath secondary on Tuesday morning, I assumed my daughter had been late for school — again.
But as I listened, it quickly became clear “late” was the least of our worries.
“McMath students are currently remaining in their first period classrooms in response to a concerning message that was posted recently. All students and staff are safe and the RCMP are on site following district protocol,” said the caller.
The day before, McMath parents were told of “unsettling statements” made on the school’s website. Those statements, in fact, were threats of a mass school shooting, but the police determined that, while outrageous, they were not a serious threat.
The next morning, however, there was yet another threat posted, and this time the “hold and secure” protocol (a kind of lockdown light) kicked in.
I have to admit, the 15-second message hadn’t even finished before I was asking one of our reporters to head down for a photo and another to post what we knew online.
Of course, as a parent, I was concerned, but not overly. Reading between the lines, it seemed the police didn’t think there was, or would be, an active shooter. In fact, it wasn’t a “lockdown,” rather a code yellow “hold and secure,” precisely because there didn’t appear to be an imminent threat.
What did get my heart pounding was when, a couple of minutes later, someone messaged the Richmond News Facebook page with the threat that had been posted on the school’s website that morning. We decided not to post or print it, but we did note the threat singled out the LGBTQ and Jewish communities.
It’s a tricky balance: we don’t want to fuel the fire and embolden those with racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic attitudes, nor do we want to sweep things under the carpet and fail to acknowledge the very real fact these groups are frequently targets of hate crimes.
The police said the threats were “unspecific,” as they didn’t want to create undue anxiety for those groups or make others think they’re immune. Understandable, but now the crisis is over, where do we go from here?
When news came that the police had arrested a youth, my first reaction was, “Oh, that poor family.” Who knows why a kid would do something like this (if that’s the case), but this isn’t the time to abandon them.
McMath is a community. As a parent, it’s been my community for seven years now. Now’s the time to show what we’re made of.
It’s time to go out of our way to show all families — LGBTQ, Jewish and those struggling with kids who cross the line — we’re in this together.