When you're a parent it's really hard to accept that your child is not always perfect.
So when tragedies like the Parkland school shooting happen, many of us, especially parents and teachers, begin to wonder what we can do to spot the warning signs early on.
While some red flags are obvious, there are many that are not as easy to figure out.
For one Georgia teacher, Amie Diprima Brown, she blames the parents and their lack of involvement for why some kids end up the way they are.
For fifteen years, Brown has been asking the parents of her students to write a letter describing their child in a million words or less.
This is a tactic she employed to help her better understand what every child and their family is like.
"I go on to explain that I want to learn the child's hopes, dreams, fears, challenges, etc, and jokingly ask parents to limit it to less than a million words since we all know we could talk forever about our children," she wrote in a Facebook post.
Over the years, these letters helped the doting teacher learn more about her students' struggles, accomplishments and behavior outside of the classroom.
Parents have opened up about their children's personalities, mental health issues, adoption stories, abuse, bullying, and medical conditions.
However, Brown has noticed that in the last couple of years something has changed, but not in a good way.
"Everybody always talks about how schools have changed, and it’s true, they have," the teacher wrote. "Yes, there’s the “crazy new math” and “bring your own device” changes. However, there are some other changes that I think the general population is not aware of."
Alarmed by the decline in response rate for her letter assignment, Brown penned a controversial, but thoughtful message on Facebook to draw some attention to the issue.
In 2003, Brown said that she received letters from 98% of the parents, but this year, only 22% wrote back.
Following her observation, the frustrated teacher took to Facebook and called out parents who don't seem to care about their child's education.
A message to parents
Brown wrote that the issue is bigger than just a letter describing a child, it's noticeable in other aspects of the child's education, like homework completion and turnaround time.
"This year's average for homework turned in is riding at 67%," she wrote. "Parents continue to let their child rack up zero after zero. But then again, that average used to be around 98% as well."
The teacher says she even tries to make it easy by reminding students daily and sending "text messages" to parents, so they are aware that their child has homework to complete.
She empathizes with busy parents, but that is not an excuse to put a kid's education on the back burner.
She's pleading with parents to actually "be a parent" and consistently keep track of their child's academic progress and behavioral changes before it's too late.
"Don't wait until your child is the school shooter to let us know your child is struggling mentally. Don't wait until your child is ineligible for sports or the day before report cards to check grades and question the teacher on why your child is failing," she continued.
Brown explained that being involved is actually easier now more than ever because parents have access to electronic devices.
"Be involved in your child’s life so that you can help them through the issues with friends, the possible suicidal thoughts, and problems academically," she added. "I promise you, if parents spent more time with their children and got involved in their lives, we would see drastic improvements in our schools and our society."
As expected, Brown's message was met with both support and hostility.
Many parents and teachers agreed with Brown's message and appluaded her for speaking out.
"Very well said!! That's THE problem, parents do check out of being a parent for whatever reason and I think it is so, so very sad. When my kids were in school, I checked on EVERYTHING!!!! NOW, it seems parents just don't care UNLESS their child can't play a sport or might have to repeat a grade. Just sad, so sad," wrote one parent.
Some educators even asked Brown to share a template of her letter with them so they can start using it their classrooms.
"I love this! I teach 4th grade and have been for 18 years. I couldn’t have said it better myself!" wrote another user.
Still, there were many others who didn't fully agree with Brown's point that parents don't care. They argued that there are other factors that could've contributed to the decrease in the number of letters she has received.
"It's so much harder to be involved in your child's schooling when both parents have to work full time. Things are just different these days. Moms have so much less time and energy than 20 years ago when many were able to put their heart and soul into mothering v/s wearing themselves out trying to keep the bills paid and food on the table...," chimed in one user.
Another echoed this sentiment, writing:
"A lot of other things have changed. Like how much parents have to work, and how much is expected from us at work. Shuttling kids back and forth to different lessons and activities. Hours and hours of homework and yada yada yada. There's not enough time in the day. Something has to give. A letter seems to be one of them."
Still, even with these conflicting opinions, Brown's post has forced a lot of parents to reevaluate their involvement in their children's lives.
How can this change?
This is certainly a topic that will continue to be debated because on one hand parents are supposed to make time for their children, but on the other, the circumstances of their day to day lives don't allow them to.
The question I always ask myself is: Is everything else in my life more important than my child? Of course, not! This is why I sacrifice a lot of other things so I can give my child the time and attention they need to grow up well.
"As parents, our job is to grow the most amazing humans possible. Its the most important job in the world. The education and emotional stability a parent provides is priceless," wrote Brown.
Sure, some may see it as shaming, but really, Brown's message is a wake up call many parents need to ensure their child is faring well in life. Taking action now and getting involved is far better than the regret you'll have to live with if your child ends up doing something drastic.
Even if your child's teacher isn't as caring as Brown, you can take the first step.
Make time to write them a letter or email, or better yet, have a face-to-face meeting with them and talk about your child in-depth. Tell them what they're like at home, what their hopes and dreams are, why they behave in certain ways, what makes them tick, what makes them happy and sad, etc.
These are observations we sometimes take for granted, but trust me, not only will it help your child's teacher, it will help you see your kid in a new light.