I participated in yet another active shooter drill at my school this week.
“Death to the infidels!” shouted Mr. O’Grady, one of my fellow teachers, as he stormed the classroom with a Nerf blaster rifle.
I had stuffed myself under a table in another teacher’s reading nook.
But it did no good.
One of the soft yellow balls came sproinging out of the gun and bounced off the carpet into my groin.
Then someone blew a whistle and the scenario was over.
The classroom full of teachers collected ourselves from behind overturned tables and under desks before uncertainly getting to our feet.
“Who got hit?” asked the principal as he poked his head into the room.
A flurry of hands went up including mine.
The students had been dismissed about an hour earlier. The body count was made up entirely of faculty and staff – teachers, administrators, security guards, substitutes, lunch ladies, etc.
The lesson we were supposed to take away from the activity was that hiding was a losing strategy.
“Do something,” one of the police officers conducting the drill said.
They wanted us to swarm the shooter, throw things at him (Nerf balls in our scenario) or make a run for it. Anything but simply staying put and being sitting ducks.
It made me wonder why our lawmakers don’t heed the same advice.
That’s where you can make a real difference to keep our schools safe.
Instead of making the world safer for our kids, we’re trying to lock them up in a castle and keep the violence out.
But it’s impossible. You can’t keep out human nature.
The same things that cause shooters to enter the school and go on a killing spree are already in our classrooms.
O’Grady may have imagined he was a member of Al-Qaeda as he pretended to blow his co-workers away, but if a shooter ever enters our building, he’s more likely to be a co-worker, parent or student.
We don’t need more ways to keep them out. We CAN’T keep them out and still do our jobs!
All we can do is try to alleviate the pressure, to counsel mental distress, heal physical trauma, guard against societal hurts.
And if that doesn’t work, we can lower the stakes and limit the amount of damage done.
Turning the school into a prison will not help. Turning teachers into guards (armed or otherwise) will not solve anything.
Back in 1999 in the wake of the Columbine school shooting, the Secret Service and U.S. Department of Education warned against all the things we’re doing now – police officers in the schools, metal detectors, cameras, etc.
Instead, they advised us as follows:
“Specifically, Initiative findings suggest that [school] officials may wish to consider focusing their efforts to formulate strategies for preventing these attacks in two principal areas:
developing the capacity to pick up on and evaluate available or knowable information that might indicate that there is a risk of a targeted school attack; and,
employing the results of these risk evaluations or “threat assessments” in developing strategies to prevent potential school attacks from occurring.”
That means prevention over disaster prepping. Homeland Security and education officials wanted us to pay close attention to our students, their needs and their struggles.
We keep our schools safe by looking to the humans in them and not new ways to barricade the building or watch the whole disaster unfold on closed circuit TV.
The fact is that our schools are actually much safer than the communities that support them. Numerous studies have concluded that students are more secure in school than on the streets or even in their own homes.
If we want to make the schools safer, we need to make the communities safer.
And, no, I’m not just talking about high poverty neighborhoods populated mostly by people of color. I mean everywhere – in our society, itself.
There are too many guns out there. We have more firearms than people!
According to the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, Americans now own 40 per cent of all guns in the world – more than the next 25 countries combined. And with every mass shooting and the hysteria trumped up by gun manufacturers with each surge in profits, that number continues to climb.
You can do whatever you want to the schools, but you’ll never increase safety until you deal with THAT problem.
The fact is countries with more guns have more gun deaths. States and Countries with more rigorous gun control have fewer gun deaths.
We need sane, sensible gun regulations. We need government buyback programs. And we need to smash the NRA’s stranglehold on our political process.
These ridiculous safety drills are simply whistling in the dark.
They’re not harmless. They’re HARMFUL.
They actually make our schools less safe.
Metal detectors, surveillance cameras, and resource officers do not create safer schools. According to a study released by the National Association of School Psychologists :
“There is no clear research evidence that the use of metal detectors, security cameras, or guards in schools is effective in preventing school violence (Addington, 2009; Borum, Cornell, Modzeleski, & Jimerson, 2010; Casella, 2006; Garcia, 2003). In fact, research has shown that their presence negatively impacts students’ perceptions of safety and even increases fear among some students (Bachman, Randolph, & Brown, 2011; Schreck & Miller, 2003). In addition, studies suggest that restrictive school security measures have the potential to harm school learning environments (Beger, 2003; Phaneuf, 2009).”
At this week’s active shooter drill in my school, one of the student aides asked the principal when he thought the state would be arming teachers.
For him, it wasn’t a matter of if. It was a matter of when.
And if you listen to the cowardly garbage spewing out of our lawmakers mouths, you can certainly understand why he believes that.
Just look at the facts.
Security cameras were present at Sandy Hook and Virginia Tech. They didn’t stop anything from happening.
Armed resource officers were present at Columbine and Parkland. That didn’t stop anything from happening.
All these measures do is criminalize our students. It turns them from prospective learners into would-be prison inmates – and as we know, our prisons are not exactly the safest places to be.
“How’d I do?” asked Mr. O’Grady, my co-worker who had posed as the shooter during the last scenario.
“You shot me in the dick,” I said.
He laughed. And I laughed.
But it was the kind of laugh that dies in your throat and leaves a taste of ashes.
School safety is a joke in 2018. Not because of what teachers and districts are doing.
When society fails to meet its obligations – as it does time-and-again – it’s our schools that continually step up to take the slack.
The problem is that we can’t even pretend to do this one on our own.
We can’t keep the schools safe if you won’t do anything about the community – if you won’t reduce poverty, violence and trauma.
We can’t keep the schools safe, if you won’t do something about the river of guns that flow through our nation like a high caliber Mississippi.
Take your own advice, America.
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