Take the lead, kids

2018-Mar-24_MFOL-Boston_2002I was in Boston this past weekend to be an ally for the student organizers of March for Our Lives, Boston.

I feel as if my generation of Boomers has dropped the ball. Or maybe we never picked up the ball because when we were students in school, worry about an “active” shooter, one with an assault weapon, was not anything to be concerned with. The duck-under-desks drills were more about tornadoes or the Cold War threats from Russian Bombs.

Since Newtown and Sandy Hook, it hasn’t mattered how young the students, we practice

2018-Mar-24_MFOL-Boston_1990 responses to active shooters several times a year. The protocols and program acronyms, such as the ALICE or Options-Based responses, change a bit from year to year, but the routines are basically the same.

 

As a teacher, I resented having to configure my classroom in order to have heavy furniture nearest the classroom doors. I resented the mind shift from what was the best environment for learning, to figuring out what might be a good escape route during an active shooting.

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My goal in creating classroom space was to design a place that supported learning cooperatively, encouraged students to be independent,  and was welcoming. Instead, I would start the school year thinking about which furniture should be near the hallway door and how 9-year olds might be able to move it in front of the door. Depending on the students’ physical limitations, it was necessary to carve out space for hiding. Teachers made plans for another adult to watch over students in a safe meeting spot in case the worst possible situation presented itself. Teacher might not be with the students and might need to stay back in the classroom hiding with a child for whom running was made impossible by physical disability.

2018-Mar-24_MFOL-Boston_1959I am abundantly aware of the ridiculous response to keeping students safe from an intruder carrying an assault weapon into a school building.  The response in such situations might mean a lock down. It might mean running. It might mean creating  a barricade by piling furniture at the egresses. If the shooter enters the classroom, we teach students to run around, scream, or throw items such as staplers and books in an attempt to distract the intruder.

T2018-Mar-24_MFOL-Boston_1969he students know that safety from an intruder armed with an assault weapon is not just an issue for schools. It can happen in nightclubs. It can happen in outdoor concerts. It can happen in churches. An assault rifle can penetrate your skin and shatter your internal organs without consideration of race or ethnicity. 2018-Mar-24_MFOL-Boston_1993

I have yet to hear a cogent argument for allowing the general population to purchase an assault weapon. Assault weapons have no purpose in the hands of the general public. They kill and maim quickly whether one is sitting on a front step or in a park or at a desk in class.

Listen to the kids.

To My Congressional Representatives

I know that I have only one voice. But I have one, and I am determined to use it.

On the four month anniversary of Sandy Hook, we are reminded that nothing has been done to prevent yet another shooting of this nature.  Listen to the family members of the victims in this tragedy. They live the aftermath of our society’s inability to do something. 60 minutes 4-7-2013

Today, family members of the victims of this tragedy will be in Washington, DC. I implore our representatives in Congress to listen – do not rush by arrogantly and claim you are “all set” as one insensitive Connecticut representative does in the video.  Listen, listen to these people who will live with the aftermath of this tragedy for the rest of their days.

We cannot afford to be complacent, afraid of controversy, or stubbornly one-sided in these discussions. This is a complicated issues — along with gun control, we can no longer ignore those who face mental challenges, and yet, through stigma and misconception, are outcast from receiving meaningful help and assistance. We cannot allow, as the NRA has suggested, our schools to become armed bastions.

Something needs to change here. It’s not just Sandy Hook – violence impacts families and communities every day. Read, or at the very least, look at the graphic of mass shootings found this article from Mother Jones.

My own students sometimes come to class – third grade – with stories of guns going off in their neighborhood. They know the difference between a car backfiring and the sound of a gun. Is this the kind of childhood we want for our children?

Please contact your own congressional representatives.  I have.