I’m Paranoid



As an 18-year veteran of the school board, the last few months have been the most challenging I’ve ever witnessed.  I experienced both student walkouts for school safety and teacher walkouts for dismal state support for its public schools.  I grew up in an era of protest–the Kent State shootings and Viet Nam War sit-ins.  I watched on TV the riots in Watts.  I’m not Pollyanna; I knew the world wasn’t perfect. I was cognizant of war, crime, and cruelty against others.

I watched in horror the TV coverage of the Twin Towers and the shooting of Gabby Giffords in a Tucson parking lot.  I wept over the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  Afterward, our school district remodeled all of our forty-four schools.  Now, when I drive by each of them, the buildings are fortresses.  (If Phoenix water wasn’t so pricey, moats would have been added). Our front office entries are bullet-proof glass, and like the movie theater, I speak into a microphone and slide my ID through the little drawer for the secretary to peruse before I’m admitted.  I’ve undergone background checks and carry a fingerprint card.

Yet, in spite of all these school safety measures, school shootings continue.  Believe me, I’ve bent my head in prayer since Sandy Hook–my only weapon.  Thoughts and prayers are of NO use to dead children and school staff members; they’ve already met Jesus.

I am paranoid of what’s to become of us.  We live in an America rife with bullying, hate, anger, and powerful lobbies which control our legislators.  Each week we lose more of our most precious asset–our youth to senseless violence. Our children are counting on us to resolve this madness.

Validating Student Voice


Supreme Court Ruling: “Students do not shed constitutional rights of freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.” Tinker v. Des Moines, February 24, 1969.  (Unless their acts of expression are disruptive to the educational process.)

Many of the key participants in the Revolutionary War were surprisingly young:

  • Marquis de Lafayette, 18
  • James Monroe, 18
  • Gilbert Stuart, 20
  • Aaron Burr, 20
  • Alexander Hamilton, 21
  • Betsy Ross, 24
  • James Madison, 25

Young people, like the students in our schools and universities.  However, unlike the founding fathers our informational world has shrunk.  Students today are much more aware of global affairs and have key-stroke access to myriads of up-to-the-minute information.  They are socially conscious, they are articulate, creative thinkers, and they don’t want to be murdered in their schools.

In 2012, when 26 were slaughtered at Sandy Hook Elementary School, we gasped in horror.  Even POTUS wept as he met with loved ones of those lost. Yet, school shootings continued.  The recent heinous act in Parkland, Florida, awakened teens across the country.  When I was in Houston earlier this week, my high school teacher/coach niece said her students were suddenly aware.  “Mrs. Cook, Parkland is so similar to us.  It could happen here at TJHS!”

With this new realization, students have held walkouts–all peaceful, most of them where they stood silently for 17 minutes in remembrance of the 17 lost in Parkland.  Thankfully, most school leaders worked with students to ensure their safety by opening their football fields, gymnasiums, or auditoriums to allow the kids to gather for 17 minutes.  Of course, there are a handful of schools who chose to suspend student participants–stupid. A teachable moment lost.

Many of the these high schoolers will vote in 2018.  They will outlive you and me.  We should guide and applaud their activism in hope our world will be a safer, kinder, and more inclusive place than it is now.

Who wants to go dump some tea in Boston Harbor?












February 14th


On Wednesday morning I awoke before the alarm and laid in bed surfing my memories. I was in Miss Snell’s, second grade class.  Since I was not very good with scissors, my shoebox valentine box looked shabby.  I don’t recall whether it was a class rule, but every kid got a card from each member of our class.

Now, this required labor.  We had to punch out a card, write our name on the back, stuff it in a miniature envelope and address it.  Of course, there were only five choices of valentines, meaning at least 4 or 5 students would receive an identical card from me.  I agonized about the one for Meice–the love of my life.  I chose a bear holding a heart–it’s message: Be my valentine.  I underlined “BE.”

When the time came to open our valentines, the boys were busily eating homeroom mom cupcakes, and we girls were searching for the one card from our love.  I read and reread the nondescript message from Meice.  I cherished it.


At 11:00 AM Wednesday, I went to my hair dresser appointment and in our conversation shared my memory.  Her response: “My husband doesn’t like Valentine’s Day.”

Wow!  Who doesn’t?  “What is up with that, Addie?”

“Chip went to a small, rural elementary school in Iowa.  Chip was short, with a slight build.  When he opened his shoebox, he’d have one or two cards.  Others would have many.”


Hmm. Hard to believe.  Today Chip is a beefcake, highly successful entrepreneur.  However, even at 50 years old, he is a broken little boy, due to the unconscious cruelty of other children.  Had I known this story I would have sent Chip a box of chocolates!

Unfortunately, my Valentine’s Day got worse:  Parkland, Florida.  Seventeen children and faculty assassinated by a sick 19-year-old with an AK-15.  My pleasant memories of February 14th have been shattered forever.

When is enough, enough?