You probably read Sedalia Democrat Editor Tim Epperson’s story about the incident at Smith-Cotton High School on Monday morning allegedly involving a student, a knife, an administrator and a Taser shot.
It’s been a few years since I’ve been in public school, but even back then starting as early as middle school it was reasonably common to see students carrying knives. From Swiss Army all the way to the most jagged hunting knife you’ve ever seen, Sedalia’s youth are packing blades more often than you might think, at least in my experience.
One day while I was walking home with one of my friends from Sedalia Middle School he unzipped his backpack and showed me that it came complete with a dedicated space for his reasonably large hunting knife.
Maybe he thought that a deer corpse would suddenly fall through the ceiling at SMS and require emergency skin removal. Maybe he thought he would have to construct a crude snare trap out of local flora in order to track down his increasingly elusive homework. Maybe he was anxiously awaiting the day when the cafeteria meat would be a little too tough. Maybe he just refused to use a traditional pencil sharpener.
So the idea that a high school student might have had a knife isn’t surprising to me, but that they would be silly enough to pull a it on an administrator does throw me for a loop.
Look, there’s nothing wrong with occasionally questioning authority and verbally disagreeing with a school administrator to a certain point – everyone gets it wrong now and again. But it is definitely a bad idea to escalate the situation by pulling out a weapon.
The school administrator definitely isn’t going to change their opinion about you or your situation because you’ve threatened them with a knife, in fact the opposite is probably true. Violence is not the answer, and neither is the implied threat of violence.
There seem to be a lot of people in society today that just don’t sufficiently understand conflict escalation and deescalation. If you don’t like what someone is saying then tell them about it – explain why it’s wrong or inappropriate. Never be the person who starts the screaming or the name-calling. Almost all personal conflicts can be resolved by keeping your emotions in check and having a sane and reasonable conversation.
Unless, of course, one of the people in the conflict chooses to pull out a knife or a gun or starts initiating physical violence. Situations rarely turn out well for the party that chooses to escalate the situation.
The first step is probably to pick our battles wisely; we can’t escalate conflicts we have chosen not to participate in. There’s a good chance the person we’re arguing with is just as stubborn as we are and it doesn’t mean we’ve won or lost if we both choose to end the conflict and agree to disagree.
There are those who can’t and won’t be reasoned out of their questionable conclusions and there’s at least one study that says when people are faced with facts that question what they think they know, they just go deeper into their hole of denial.
The only good thing about this surprising event is that nobody is dead or even seriously injured. It’s good to see non-lethal take-down procedures used appropriately;even if it didn’t feel particularly good, most of the time being tased is better than being shot and it’s definitely better than being dead.
Travis McMullen is a longtime Sedalia resident who shares his views on the city through his weekly Democrat column.