As a retired teacher, a mother and a grandmother, I had been giving much thought to the increase in violence in our country even before the Parkland, Fla., killings. One reason is something that happened a few years ago. I picked up The Californian and the front page story was about a student I taught in the fourth grade. He was on Death Row after committing a vicious crime.

I remembered him well, although he gave me no trouble. What made him different from the other children was his mean actions toward them. He was a bully. When I taught, most lower-grade children had happy hearts and they were generous. My house is filled with Christmas gifts from them.

What has happened? I don’t think easy access to guns is responsible. My brother had guns and used them for hunting, not criminal activity. It is the change in our culture. Fewer people establish a happy home before having a family. Many psychologists agree that children who have loving care the first three years of their life will be better people and less likely to have mental problems. Giving teenagers condoms will not solve their problems. We should make it easier for parents to give children a religious education.

Music used to be beautiful. Movies used to be pornography-free.

Though we can’t pray in school, we can at least pray in our churches and homes. America needs prayer. I think that’s what that great leader Billy Graham would say.

— Rachel Kennedy, Bakersfield