The truth about school shootings: they happen. Not often. But when they do, they are horrific. What could be more of a nightmare than kissing your child goodbye in the morning, leaving him or her in the care of others and never seeing your loved one alive again? Here’s what I don’t get. If your child died at school because their care-givers failed to protect them from a foreseeable accident, you’d blame the teachers, administrators and school system. You might even blame yourself for putting your child in that school. But if a child is shot at school, it’s society’s fault for giving him access to a gun. Where’s the sense in that?
Truth be told, the vast majority of United States schools are completely unprepared for what’s called an “active shooter.” Actually, it’s worse than that. The accepted practices our schools have adopted to react to an active shooter put our children in greater danger than if those in charge had done nothing at all.
For example, why would you put schools into a “lockdown” in response to an active shooter? The idea that gathering children together in an enclosed space to save them from a madman (or men) with a gun is, well, madness. To use military parlance, the practice creates a “target rich environment.”
Common sense—and blood-soaked experience—tells us we should instruct children to run away from the shooter or shooters. As in away from the school. From each other. Anywhere. Everywhere. As fast as they can.
Concentrating children supposedly makes it easier for law enforcement to take out the active shooter. As we’ve seen in Columbine, Virginia Tech and now Brazil, the sudden ferocity of the active shooter’s initial attack makes a mockery of that strategy. The police no longer wait to “pack up” to take out an active shooter. So why should unarmed students form a passive group?
In fact, the term “lockdown” is a complete misnomer. Because of fire laws, most schools’ classroom doors don’t lock. (When was the last time you heard of children dying in a school fire?) How strong are the classroom doors at those schools where the portals do lock? Would you bet your child’s life on them?
If Americans took the threat of school shootings seriously, they wouldn’t be arguing about whether or not teachers or other adults within the school should be allowed to bear arms. They’d be talking about which adults should be armed, what training they should receive and what strategy they should employ.
Every school in America should have one of these, and someone designated and trained to use it. All the adults in a school environment should have some active active shooter training, both individually and as a team. I repeat: they should know how to do more than assemble terrified children behind a closed door and dial 911. They should know how to attack.
We should also be teaching our children active shooter prevention and survival skills. How to identify a potentially violent student. How to mount a counter-attack against a gunman (e.g. gather on both sides of a classroom door, throw objects at the shooter as he enters, jump on him, take away the gun). The difference between cover and concealment. Etc.
We all want our children free from the threat of gun violence. That’s never going to happen. The fact that schools are preparing for the possibility of an active shooter or shooters is a sign that they recognize this, and take our children’s safety seriously. But they’re not taking it seriously enough.
Just as a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, a little security is false security. It lulls the entire school community into thinking that they have the skills needed to deal with an active shooter. Clearly, tragically, they don’t.