In another life, I was a crime writer. True crime. I’ve
interviewed 14-year-old murderers and 15-year-old rapists, written books about
college graduates who commit murder, about lowlife “woodchucks” who do the
same. And anyone who has ever sat in a kitchen with a mother whose 12-year-old daughter was stabbed to death or sat alone in a room trying to recreate
these gruesome scenes on paper—well, this is why I left the field and did not
look back.

But my heart goes out to the parents, family, and friends of
the victims of the Chardon,
Ohio, shooting
. And to school personnel at Chardon High School—this is when
you earn your angel wings.

Everyone is asking themselves, How can we know?

I know that educators all over the country are now huddling
with their school security officers and school counselors and social workers. They
are reviewing their building entry and lock-down procedures and reviewing the
student suspension files, to look again at the records of children who may have
been kicked out of school for carrying a weapon or threatening to harm someone
or—or what? Everyone is asking themselves, How can we know?

The answer is that we can’t. But what we might consider
trying, as the next few sorrowful days unfold, is resolving to get to know our
children, whether we are a parent, friend, or teacher. When we are able to look
into the hearts of children, we will, of course, find their angels. But we will also
find their demons and must help the child to banish them. That can happen only
if we spend time with them. Not long before the terrible tragedy in Chardon I was discussing discipline and classroom management with a
teacher in Dayton and she told me, “We don’t have discipline problems, we have
feedback problems.” She meant that our first duty to children is to pay
attention to them.

Just yesterday, at a meeting of our local school board’s curriculum
committee, a special education teacher was trying to explain to a social studies
teacher that the road to student motivation runs through the ear.  “Listen to them,” she exhorted. “It is
so important to make these individual connections to children. Then they will
open up and then you can reach them.”

Our sincere condolences to the children of Chardon.

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