Minneapolis Schools: Lock Down!

I wrote about the pillaging of Minneapolis schools in an article for Counterpunch.com called ‘Race to the Slop’. The school system, home of the first charter school law in the nation, is the next big bubble to break, as more and more schools across the nation shutter their facilities and throw students into the new “consolidated schools”.  Drastic downsizing and the demolition of public assets and services such as schools has its own Huxley language to describe it. When families cannot afford to live apart due to economic constraint, they move into together and under the rubric of the propagandist, this too would be ‘consolidation’.

But the news of crisis aimed at the Minneapolis schools, news of March 10th, was most perplexing if not simply for the way the crisis was handled, but the reaction to it.

Schools receive threat

It all began when, about 9:30 a.m. Wednesday the 10th, Minneapolis school officials activated a computer program that sent an urgent and ominous telephone message to parents of all 32,000 of its students. The message notified parents that because of an unspecified threat all Minneapolis schools would be locked down with students inside until the end of the school day. According to the Star Tribune:

“Thus began an unsettling and extraordinary day in which the same technology that apparently enabled a miscreant in Australia to warn via the Internet that a Minneapolis school would be shot up also enabled the school district to notify legions of parents of what’s believed to be the first citywide school lockdown in history. And late Wednesday, an update was sent out — the lockdown would be extended through Thursday as a precautionary measure” (Mpls. schools lockdown extended through todayhttp://www.startribune.com/local/stpaul/87233697.html?elr=KArksUUUU).

Minneapolis police spokesman Jesse Garcia explained that the Minneapolis threat was telephoned in at about 7:30 a.m. to the city’s 311 information line. The unknown caller said that someone had warned on a social networking site that about two hours later, “a male will be coming to a Minneapolis school, shoot up the school and then shoot himself,” (ibid). Threats to schools on social networking sites have become increasingly common, the center said.

Within the past month, online threats against two suburban Minneapolis Twin Cities high schools have been posted. Both turned out to be unfounded, and, according to director Mike Siitari, “very few, if any” documented cases of actual school violence have stemmed from rumors posted on social networking sites.”

What some parents say

Parents were generally pleased with the way the situation was handled. Yet many citizens are running scared. Fawzi Ahmed, 49, and his wife went to Sheridan to pick up their two children rather than allow them ride the bus as they usually did. Ahmed commented:

 “You cannot guarantee what will happen. This way, I can guarantee myself.” (ibid)

At Marcy, parents Brie Griffin and her husband, Courtney Griffin, dropped off some birthday treats for their child but saw no need to pull the first-grader from school a half-hour early. Brie Griffin said:

 “They asked for our IDs, though, which was new.”

Courtney Griffin, her husband, remarked:

 “Sometimes I think too much information can lead to …” (ibid). “Paranoia,” his Brie Griffin chimed in” (ibid).

When citizens in a democracy feel that too much information can lead to paranoia it is no wonder they will turn to ‘strong leaders’ for guidance.

In a comment section on-line at the Star Tribune out of Minneapolis, more than one hundred citizens sounded off about the threat, how it was handled and most interestingly they attested to their own psychology and social analysis regarding the matter.

For example, one parent commented:

 “Students Made to Suffer and Locked Up Like Criminals…” “I was very happy my kindergarten grandchild was locked up like a criminal yesterday. I don’t think he suffered too badly, however. Still … read more went to the library, had music and math. Played inside with his buddies and ate a good lunch. Kudos to the schools who have a system in place to handle the new crazy that’s become our world. Kudos also that as his grandfather and I are listed emergency contacts, we received calls at our home, as well as his parents” (ibid).

Another commentator stated simply:

“Keep your kids in school. And rest assured that when these pranksters/terrorists are found, they will be tried in a military tribunal and not a civilian court in Minneapolis. The best thing for my fellow Minneapolitans to do in light of terrorism/pranksterism would be to go shopping. Rest assured, as soon as we find out who these terrorists/pranksters are, their circle of friends will be waterboarded. America changed that fateful day 9 years ago” (ibid).

Finally, out of the 117 comments, I found this one most interesting:

“There seems to be an epidemic of alienated discouraged people who act out either in violence or the threat of violence. It would be worth it for us to examine our society and try to figure out what’s causing that and fix it” (ibid).

As cities continue to crumble economically and socially from everything associated to basic infrastructure to institutions like schools, more and more lock-downs episodes can be expected to take place in American schools. One can only hope that the insipid individualism and tendency to violence that plagues the psyche of the American citizen does not lead us into directions of more authoritarian control as parents and city residents become if not comfortable with, as least numbed by the increased violence and capitulate further to new authoritarian plans for laying down a police state.

More and more alienated and discouraged people are being minted daily by a society in ruins. The one commentator who commented that people should go shopping echoes the ghost of George W. Bush whom a little less than two weeks after the 911 attacks stated:

“Get on board. Do your business around the country. Fly and enjoy America’s great destination spots. Get down to Disney World in Florida. Take your families and enjoy life, the way we want it to be enjoyed. I encourage you to all go shopping more.”

As the more thoughtful commentator immediately above noted, it would be worth our time to ‘stop and frisk’ our society and try to critically examine what’s causing the social despair, capitulation to “lock-down” policies, calls for military tribunals, waterboarding and the outsourcing of fear to law enforcement. If we don’t, we might find ourselves all locked down in the sweltering serenity of Aldous Huxley’s, Brave New World, if we aren’t already.