Love Isn't All We Really Need

In an op-ed piece written for The New York Times entitled, “I Was Kind to Nikolas Cruz. He Still Killed My Friends,” Parkland survivor Isabelle Robinson wrote that, “No amount of kindness or compassion alone would have changed the person that Nikolas Cruz is and was, or the horrendous actions he perpetrated. That is a weak excuse for the failures of our school system, our government, and our gun laws.”

What Robinson is referencing here is the #WalkUpNotOut movement taking place in some schools. The movement is focused on being kind to those students who are isolated and ostracized from their peers. Thus, making the students responsible for preventing violent occurrences, such as shootings, in their own schools. Robinson says that, “The implication that Mr. Cruz’s mental health problems could have been solved if only he had been loved more by his fellow students is a gross misunderstanding of how these diseases work and a dangerous suggestion that puts children on the front line.” I could not agree more.

Students go to school, first and foremost, to learn. They should not be expected to maintain the safety of their school - that is not their job. The people that should be befriending students with dangerous or violent tendencies are the school administrators and teachers. They are the ones who have the power and the resources to get these violent children the help they so desperately need. And in doing so, will help to protect the rest of the school from violence.

A key point Robinson makes in her piece is that no amount of kindness or compassion alone would have changed Nikolas Cruz. She is not discouraging students from being kind to their isolated or somewhat socially awkward peers. She writes that, “As a former peer counselor and current teacher’s assistant, I strongly believe in and have seen the benefits of reaching out to those who need kindness the most.”

What she is saying is that even if Cruz had been a beloved student of the school, his fellow classmates, and teachers would not have changed the fact that Cruz is mentally ill. Along with not being well-liked, Cruz was suffering from a mental illness that was not being properly treated and treatment for such illnesses does not include having a lot of friends. Perhaps if Cruz had more friends, the Parkland school shooting would have been postponed. I have trouble believing that it just would have never happened. His illness would catch up to him at one point or another.

Expecting students to be the gatekeepers of school violence is extremely thoughtless and somewhat naïve. If I was in school and someone asked me to befriend the violent and unkind student in my class, I don’t think I would have gone along with the idea. The #WalkUpNotOut movement expects children to put themselves in harm’s way and risk being injured or abused in an effort to prevent a child from reacting violently against their fellow classmates. Not to mention the fact that in some cases, friendship or kindness has nothing to do with preventing a school shooting. The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School was committed by an adult with no attachment to the school what so ever. It is unknown why shooter Adam Lanza even targeted the school to begin with.

In that case, nothing the students could have done would have changed the outcome. So, expecting them to take it upon themselves to stop a school shooter, as Robinson explains, “is a slap in the face to all Stoneman Douglas victims and survivors.”