Editorials

Plano just gave us an awful example of how fears from mass shootings can go too far

It’s the first day of school at Mansfield, students walk in with cheer

The cheerleaders practiced all summer to welcome students into school on the first day of school at Danny Jones Middle School in Mansfield.
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The cheerleaders practiced all summer to welcome students into school on the first day of school at Danny Jones Middle School in Mansfield.

On Monday morning, thousands of Fort Worth parents will send their children off to the first day of school. They’ll pause to snap a picture for social media, and many will feel a catch in their throat when they realize how fast their babies are growing.

Many will feel a pang of anxiety, too, over other things they can’t control — especially the specter of school shootings.

It’s a classic sign of the times that many Texas schools are preparing this year to comply with a new law requiring kits to control bleeding to be on hand. Another item has gained attention: bulletproof backpacks.

The recent shootings in El Paso and Dayton weren’t in schools, but they were painful reminders of the dangers lying in wait for us in the world. And we’re not far removed from the Santa Fe and Parkland shootings. Frankly, the possibility of a mass shooting seems to loom constantly over all of us these days.

Parents may try to hide these feelings from their kids, but sadly, many are aware. Some may even be going through active shooter drills this year.

We feel helpless. On Friday, the dust-up over a canceled Plano football game added a prime example of overreaction to such fears.

This is an opportunity to teach children important lessons about the proper place and sources of fear — and to remind ourselves of them, too.

We don’t mean to suggest people shouldn’t be concerned about a potential shooting.

But overall, gun violence has been trending down, and your odds of being caught in a mass shooting are low. Children are much more likely to be in danger on the roads on their way to school than to be the victim of a mass shooting.

Teach your children how to balance these fears. Let them learn to be vigilant, to be prepared if danger should arrive, but to embrace life without giving in to irrational fear.

One of our North Texas school districts gave us a distinct example of this Friday. Plano Senior High’s football team was scheduled to host the team from El Paso Eastwood, a school close to the site of the mass shooting, on Sept. 6. Plano Senior High was where the El Paso shooter attended.

Plano’s school superintendent Sara Bonser canceled the game because “the timing of the game falls too soon after the tragedy.” And Plano police told The Dallas Morning News that a major factor cited by the school superintendent was the possibility the game could become a platform for political extremists.

Not a credible security threat, police said — but apparently an unspoken fear that something could happen. One possibility mentioned was that extremist protesters might show up.

After a day of questions, cooler heads prevailed. The game was rescheduled for The Star, the Dallas Cowboys facility used by Frisco schools, apparently because it’s easier to secure than the original site, a stadium in Murphy.

Even then, Plano officials couldn’t say precisely why they were concerned, other than to say the game presented “unique challenges” and “an abundance of caution” was needed. For what, no one could precisely say.

After 9/11, we sent a clear message to terrorists: Yes, we will take more precautions, but you will not keep us from airplanes, schools or sports stadiums. We will confront the very fear that small extremist movements hope to spread.

By canceling the game, Plano school officials told students that we must alter our lives rather than take head-on the hate a small number of deluded souls proffer.

It would be quite a victory for extremists to be able to disrupt something as time-honored as a Texas Friday night football game with merely the threat of their presence. Plano inadvertently did the work of amplifying their agenda and giving them more power than they really have.

We’re glad Frisco ISD stepped up to welcome the El Paso players. The Dallas-Fort Worth area should host them and honor them through competition. Do it with plenty of robust security, but make it clear that backward hate will not disrupt our lives.

That’s a message every parent should arm their child with as a new school year starts, too.

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