Three students and I just made a plan for how we'll survive a school shooting. It's our first lock-down drill, and at an unspecified time, we are to lock our doors, cover our windows, turn off our lights and computers, get kids away from windows and doors, get everyone to turn off their phones (because a ding from a phone will let the shooter know where a child is hiding.) We are to sit, in silence, and wait for an administrator, security or law enforcement to unlock my door. Because any noise, any light, any movement, any sight of us, could mean one or all of us could die-- if this was real.
I am scared. I know it's a drill. I know there's no shooter. But I'm still scared, because having a drill makes it more real. And even though my kids are very aware that school shootings mostly happen in white, suburban schools, we all know Trump has had an electrifying effect on white supremacists in America.
When the drill happens, I'll need to go out into the hall to lock my door. I'll look for kids in the hall to grab and get in my room. We'll get to a "safe" place. We'll sit and try to be quiet. Here's a few of my fears:
* How do I help kids with PTSD, who are traumatized by this drill? If I can't handle somebody's emotional reaction, and if that reaction imperils my other kids while we are hunkered down hiding, what do I do?
* Once the drill is over, and we are back to this new "normal," how do I help those students in my school who have experienced trauma deal with a continuing cycle of being re-traumatized by this experience?
* We don't have the resources to handle the traumatized kids we have already. We have two social workers, who are extremely busy. We have three counselors. On March 7th, I will be proctoring the new way our District has found to evaluate school counselors: by having seniors do a long, computer-based survey, about how many times they have interacted with the counselors, if they've been helpful with college stuff, paperwork, etc. As far as I know, counselors will be held at least partially accountable to whether seniors in springtime, being forced to evaluate their school counselor, take that survey seriously.
During the drill, there were no kids in the Library (this time.) But we talked before they left for class about what to do. Don't get bottled up-- don't hide in a place you can't get escape from, if you can help it. Fight and distract the shooter if you have to, but getting out is the best way, probably. l told them I would check first to see if anybody was outside the exit with a gun. If someone was, we could be trapped. I *forgot to tell them: if I get shot, run around me, don't stand there. Don't be an easy target. Don't huddle together. You'll be easier targets that way. Spread out. Next time, I'll remember to tell them all of that.
* I'm afraid my big words about "run around me," (meaning my dead or dying body) are too brave. What if in the face of this kind of danger, I freeze, cry, get hysterical, am entirely useless? It happens to trained, armed people all the time. What makes me think I'm a hero?
* What if we are instructing our next shooter what to do?
* How do children who experience gun violence in communities receive this, beyond my speculations and incidental conversations with kids? Where is the research on the affect these drills will have on my particular children?
I lay down between the Library stacks. I was afraid to sneeze. I was afraid to look at my phone, because even though I had the ringer off, what if a video or something started to play? It was too dark to read a book, and I couldn't concentrate. Security came and rattled the door. Once. Twice. Three times.
I had to pee. I thought of David Hogg at Parkland, who had the presence of mind during AN ACTUAL SCHOOL SHOOTING to interview the kids HE WAS HIDING WITH so he could document the experience. So we can learn from it. This child is someone special. I KNEW it was my own security guards out there, I had nobody to save but myself, and I was too scared to sneeze.
* Florida's Governor wants to put armed guards in every school in his state. Follow the money: what a bump in contributions he'll get from his red-state followers, the NRA, gun manufactures, etc. Ridiculous, and criminal.
* Obviously gun control is the way to solve this problem. We look to the data and experience of our well-educated global counterparts, and this truth is right there. To state something obvious, politicians who will not stand up to the gun lobby devalue the lives of American children. Police violence against people of color is tolerated and even celebrated by the current President. See this: Donald Trump Is Serious When He Jokes About Police Brutality
These politicians, unwilling to protect children, do another thing, which feels suspiciously convenient for this group: they contribute to a sense of chaos and churn for kids in schools. All this time, effort, money and thought, professional development, contracts, training, etc. around active shooter drills, when legislation is a way to fix it. I don't think it is necessarily an unhappy consequence for irresponsible politicians that these policies are all the better to push privatized educational options on families as a "safer" or better way.
Call me crazy if you want to for making that connection. I've watched my own kids' education since pre-No Child Left Behind days, until this moment. I've seen the neo-liberal attacks on public education chip away at what they had in public school, to what my students experience now. I just lived through eighteen months in which my Superintendent called out Pittsburgh teachers' demands for better pay, health care and educational conditions in ways that felt hurtful and disrespectful. I'm watching Butler teachers get ready to strike. I'm in awe of the monumental work the West Virginia teachers are doing to save their entire state from austerity. Teachers, students and families in Chicago battle for their children's schools' very right to exist in Black and Brown communities, (See this: On The Last Day of Black History Month, Chicago School Board Votes to Close 5 Black Schools) and so much more.
What began as a movement by young people in Florida after Trayvon Martin was murdered, was followed by the young adults in Ferguson who rose up against the murder of Michael Brown, to brave activists insisting #BlackLivesMatter, to the Parkland students, who are changing corporate policies, and now teachers battling for their kids across the country-- it feels like an #EducationSpring.
Unfettered school shootings because our politicians put money over gun control, police officers murdering Black children with impunity, and the violence that comes when schools are kept churning and chaotic by austerity measures while we spend $610 billion on our military budget, are all interconnected oppressions our teachers and students have been fighting for a long time-- in the streets. It's time we ALL joined them.
While I was writing this, there was a shooting at Central Michigan University.
NYT: WV teachers' strike
Saving West Virginia
Arming Teachers Will Only Increase the Chance of a School Shooting
Staceyann Chin: All Oppression Is Connected