We live in a world with constant distractions. The focus of our attention is constantly being sought by so many different people and companies that most issues, even major ones, within our country come and go from the headlines within a matter of weeks if not days and sometimes even hours. Adding to this is the chaos of our individual lives as we attempt to balance all that life has to offer.
All of that being said, an issue that has stayed at or near the forefront of our national media during the past year is that of school safety and, in particular, school shootings. With a new disaster, and plenty of near misses as well, occurring on an all-to-regular basis, school safety has secured its place of importance at the top of the educational hierarchy and, in many instances, at the top of the national hierarchy of debates as well.
As an educator, my biggest fear was an incident to occur involving an active shooter in my building. This fear didn’t resonate with me until around seven years into my teaching career when our school resource officers shared with us a video of the tragedy that occurred at Columbine High School. While the average faculty meeting is dull and boring, you could literally hear a pin drop during this session.
From this inservice session, I took away a valuable tool from our school resource officers in terms of school safety: hide, fight, or flight. In the past, I (like most educators that I have spoken with) was taught to have my kids hide, presumably under their desks. After watching the Columbine video, however, it quickly became apparent that simply hiding under a desk was not the best option available and, in fact, provided little value in terms of safety in an active shooter situation. Instead, the first priority is to hide in such a way that puts you in position to carry out the alternate two options if deemed necessary and appropriate. As a high school educator, this meant equipping myself and my kids with anything that could be deemed as a weapon: pens, pencils, scissors, shoes, computer monitors, you name it, but everyone was to have something in their hands that they could use to fight if necessary.
The final option, flight, was a best case scenario in which the threat was located away from our position and we had the opportunity, as a group, to flee from campus to a safe place.
I’m not a classroom rules and syllabus on day one guy AT ALL, but during the first week of each semester, we reviewed hide, fight, or flight in all of my classes. We went around campus to different locations, such as the cafeteria, the gymnasium, the auditorium, etc. to evaluate different situations and present the “what if it happened while you were right here” scenario. Obviously, in a real-world situation, the scene will be chaotic and it is unpredictable as to how people will react in pressure situations, but I am a firm believer that establishing a plan and carrying out a situation in your mind in advance will provide at least a slight level of preparation for the real thing.
I carry hide, fight, or flight with me everywhere I go now, to the point that it’s pretty much an afterthought. When I’m speaking in an auditorium or a gymnasium, I’ve already laid out an escape plan in my mind. When I walk in the grocery store or my favorite Mexican restaurant, I’ve already evaluated the options available. As sad as it is to say, it’s become second nature for me in the world that we live in today.
All of these thoughts are coming from an educator’s and, in public, a citizen’s perspective. But what really hits me in the heart, and the purpose of this post, isn’t about my perspective as an educator or a citizen towards school safety, but instead, as a parent.
Brooks just finished 2nd grade. He absolutely LOVES school with a passion and we are blessed that he attends a wonderful school full of amazing educators. But as notifications pop up on my phone on an all-too-frequent basis with yet another school shooting and then another, I have found myself asking the question: Is the risk worth the reward?
As a parent, your children are your most prized possession that you will ever have. It’s indescribable how, as a parent, your priorities completely change when a child enters your life. It’s no longer about you, but instead about caring for, providing for, and protecting your kids.
That being said, I have found myself debating whether or not to leave Brooks in school or to homeschool him instead based exclusively on the increasing number of school shootings that are taking place in our country.
Please understand that I am 100% confident in the safety procedures in place at his current school, otherwise he would not be there. This is not in any way directed at his school, but simply my honest thoughts and feelings as a father based on the status of our current society. But as a parent, and of an only child at that, I’ve got one chance to do this thing right. And let’s be honest here: when one of these idiots decides they are going to inflict pain through one of these heinous acts, they will find a way to make it happen.
I cannot begin to fathom the emotions that have run through the parents of those involved in school tragedies. It’s the call or text or notification that every parent dreads at their core, especially in the world we live in today.
And so, I ask you again: Is the risk worth the reward? I’m struggling to answer that question, and I assume that many other parents are as well.