In the 2019/2020 school year I was horrified to walk into a local office supply store for a binder for my new job at a local school district. What horrified me? “Bullet Resistant Backpacks! I asked myself, are we sending our students to WAR or to SCHOOL??? I was INFURIATED! Never mind the capitalization and/or normalization of what was unthinkable only 20 years ago. Before Columbine we rarely heard of shootings in schools… because they rarely happened!
This would only be a week after I was told of the FIVE survival warnings there were now for many of the districts in my area… And I dare say, many across the country…
- LOCKOUT! – Where everyone on campus is expected to get inside the building and stay until the “LOCKOUT” is released. Staff are to “stay alert” but “business carries on as usual” his is usually called if there is danger happening outside of the school/campus that could cause harm to staff/students, but there is no danger inside the school building itself. (ex: a police chase in the area)
- LOCKDOWN! – lights off and out of sight. Just as it says, everyone is to go into a classroom, turn off the lights and maintain silence. This usually means that a dangerous person is ON campus, but not in a classroom and they are attempting to keep everyone safe. (ex: the person in the police chase above has come on campus and/or in the building. It is unknown if the person is armed. All situations are treated as if there is a gun involved, regardless of information confirming the presence of a gun)
- EVACUATE! – Everyone is to leave the building(s) and meet in a pre-designated place. (EX: Think “old fashioned” fire drills. There is a danger in the building(s) and the safest place is outside.)
- SHELTER! – Everyone is to go to the pre-designated “safe place” in the school. (EX: Think “old fashioned” tornado drills. This not only applies to the “duck and cover” tornado drills it could also include getting to a higher place in the school in the case of flooding or could include getting into seclusion to avoid a hazardous material.)
- HOLD! – Teachers are too close and lock classroom doors but carry on with “business as usual” in the classroom. (EX: students fighting in the hall way.)
Recently my state has “relaxed” its gun laws to include allowing staff to be armed on school campuses. Again I ask, where are we sending our students? More over, WHAT are we TEACHING our students??? Violence begets violence! Do I feel better knowing that not only is the “bad guy” shooting bullets that could harm my child, but from the other direction a staff member is also shooting bullets…. Bullets that do not discriminate? NO! I do not feel better.
Never mind how I feel, what about the children in these schools?! The rate of anxiety among students is on the rise and rises every day! According to the Pew Charitable Trust:
APRIL 17, 2018
Majority of U.S. teens worry a shooting could happen at their school
As if worrying about the next History test wasn’t enough pressure. Our students are faced with mounting fears of performance on standardized tests, being bullied at school, in the community and online. They face the familiar stresses of taking placement exams to get into their preferred college. They face fitting in and minimum wage jobs and if their hair looks right…. Why do they have to worry if their back pack is bullet proof?
This study speaks to the effect this issue has on teens…. But infants, toddlers and elementary age children were recently shot shopping for school supplies in El Paso. Even if the “bullet resistant” backpack had been purchased, it’s only helpful if it is between the shooter and the victim, not in a shopping cart, not on a hook in the classroom, not on the floor board of the school bus or minivan.
What is the solution? Well, to find a solution it is important to define the problem. What is the problem? Is it guns in school? Is it, not enough armed, well-meaning law abiding citizens? Is it mental health? Is it a lack of proper mental health care? Is it video games? Is it drugs? Is it upbringing? Is it low self-esteem? Is it heavy media coverage? Is it……… What is it?
I know what it’s not! It is NOT the responsibility of our children to protect themselves from senseless violence. It is NOT okay for our students to have to go to school donning a Kevlar backpack. It is NOT the responsibility of our teachers to be combat soldiers while teaching our children. The responsibility of protecting OUR children is OURS!
I invite your voice to this discussion. I ask that discourse happen as I truly want to know what others think on how best to approach and hopefully change the fact that I see young children in my local schools having panic attacks because they worry they or their peers will be attacked by someone with a gun. I also ask that discourse remain civil. This is a safe place for ideas, but not a safe place for attacks.