Lockdown drills aren’t really new, unfortunately. Students have been doing them for a few years now, but what kids have to know and what to do in a shooter situation is becoming more real and more of a possibility.
As a person who grew up pre-Columbine, before anyone even thought or had any notion of shooting up a school or other places (besides the sniper at University of Texas before my time, which seemed like an anomaly), the practicing of drills to protect children from someone wanting to take out people in numbers seems unbelievable. How can that happen? I question. How does it happen? And then, my denial side says, It wouldn’t happen here.
And that’s the statement most of us use to block out the horrifying idea of such an event occurring at our kids’ school. That denial, and even naiveté (because we live in such a nice, safe, little community I like to believe) is unrealistic and possibly detrimental. We can’t live thinking that nothing bad will ever happen to our kids (at school or otherwise), but we also can dwell in the fear of bad things happening all the time. We need a balance.
Unfortunately, right now that balance means teaching our kids to barricade the doors if there is a lockdown, hide out of sight, and practice these drills until they know it well so that, hopefully, no one gets hurt in a real situation. And yet the protective mother in me can’t help but tell my children when they ask, “what do we do if we’re walking from another room and the classroom door is locked?” “Get the hell out of there,” I say, “Run off the campus and keep running.”
They’re astounded by my use of a “curse word” (yes, they’re young), but I couldn’t help it. It was my gut response to try and keep them safe when I can’t. Because more than likely, if anything were to happen, I probably wouldn’t be there. Most of wouldn’t. And that’s probably the hardest part. We’re reliant on our own children and the school’s staff to perform what they learned correctly, under stress with the rush of adrenaline, and hopefully escape the fire (in this case, gunfire). So all we can do is teach them the best we can, have hope that such a terrible event never happens to them in their lifetimes, and have faith that we will get through whatever might happen (or not happen). Oh, and just breathe.
Some third graders’ responses to doing a lockdown:
“What if that really happens here?”
“I don’t want to do a lockdown!”
“I take thirty seconds to use the bathroom so I know I’m safe!”
I’d like to think that our kids can learn to develop their own emotional stability around living in a chaotic and uncertain world. It’s one thing to present the lockdown drill as a means for safety and security while attending school. It’s another thing for children to process what this fear/panic process is doing for their attitude of the world. As adults, we have a lifetime of work to be done on releasing deep seeded fears and past traumas. Let’s give the children tools now to help curb growing up with limiting beliefs about themselves and others. A new reality might mean teaching children how to create their own inner peace. It can be done and I believe is so necessary.
Good points, Merilee. Thank you.