School shootings require three elements: a school, a shooter, and a gun.
We probably shouldn’t close schools and we aren’t able to perfectly predict who is likely to bring a gun to school, but we could choose to limit the kinds of high capacity weapons that allow untrained shooters to kill many people quickly. We did it before, and it worked.
Until we do it again, we’ve decided that we should train children to flee or fight in a shooting situation.
We’re telling our children that, rather than give up guns, we’re going to traumatize them. It’s a message that affirms what they already think of us, people who chose unlimited capitalism over global survival.
I think the results are predictable: a suicide crisis among Gen Z.
Above, a poster for the ALICE method of school safety. I question the efficiency of a 5-letter acronymn, but I really hate the fact that when my second grader enters his school each morning, he immediately walks past the word “gunshot.”
As a parent, you can opt your child out. Call your school today and tell the principal that your child won’t be participating. Ask what the protocol is for non-participating students, and if there isn’t one, volunteer to develop it. If the principal pushes back, just be consistent. You caring for your child–and showing parental resistance to drills–is your right and your duty, and it’s not a burden for the principal to accommodate you.
You can argue with the principal if you want; there is ample data that school shooter drills traumatize students, re-traumatize students who have actually experienced gun violence, create fear of the police, and, worst of all, train student shooters. (Think about it: When school shootings happen, they’re almost always by students within the school. Giving them a backstage tour of the drill process doesn’t increase school safety.)
But you don’t have to argue with the principal; you can just say “no” without any explanation. Decisions about drills are not typically made by the principal but at a higher level, so take your fight to the school board or state board of education. There is not sufficient evidence to support the use of drills, and you can cite that over and over.
To keep your child safe at school, advocate for changes to our gun laws and changes to our gun culture. Create a community expectation that guns will always be locked so that children and teens will never have access to them. Demand that gun owners carry insurance, that people whose choices give teens access to weapons be held accountable in court, and that gun manufacturers be held liable for advertising weapons as for use against people.
Work to end domestic violence since mass shootings by adults are often predicated by abuse against women. Address toxic masculinity. Combat homophobia. Teach boys healthy ways of relating to others. Model it in athletics and the classroom. Undermine the entitlement that permeates white male culture–the culture that produces the majority of our school shooters.
And support active shooter training for children and funding for a school nurse and a social worker in every school. Support ID badge system and other policies that help prevent strangers from accessing schools.
Teach your children to say something if they see something worrisome, whether in person or online. Teach them to be upstanders, not just by bystanders.
But you don’t have to teach them what a gunshot sounds like.