The news is full of controversy lately with the most recent school shootings in Florida and now in Texas. I am an educator and I have been watching closely to see what changes may be made for my profession. I am not here to start a debate, the internet is already full of that. What I have realized is that many parents and individuals in the community may be unaware of what is happening inside of our schools on a daily, weekly or monthly basis, specifically in regards to keeping our students safe. I can only speak to those districts that I have been directly involved in, or have first hand knowledge of, so please do not assume that this is in every building – instead have conversations with your children, even if you think they are too young. This is the life we are living, and it is never too young for them to know how to keep themselves safe.
Many districts in the area have adapted the ALICE training philosophy. Instead of the lock-down drills of the past, we are now following Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate. For my elementary students, Run, Hide, Fight. Instead of locking ourselves in a classroom huddling in the corner, the first thing we are trained to do is to run with our students. From 4k on up, students are taught that they are to run from the school as fast as possible if they are able. Your school may be teaching our 4, 5, and 6 year old students how to jump out windows. I have walked the perimeter of our school with my colleagues to ensure that we have a strong idea of where the best route to our rally point would be. We as adults practice where to go and how to get there from a multitude of angles and positions within the school. At the elementary level we have decided that allowing the students to practice these drills is too traumatic and we will practice locking down, but we as adults have to be aware that if it comes to it, the students do not know where to run – we will have to show them.
If running is not an option, then we hide. I have been trained to walk into a classroom and assess what objects are large enough to go in front of the door in hopes of stopping an individual trying to hurt us (or attempt to put a 3 ring binder under the door as a door stop). I also walk into many classrooms on a daily basis and I am constantly aware of where the furthest from the door is. We also have paper taped to the back of every classroom door to cover the windows. I have also been trained that if I am hiding, no one is allowed in the room unless they show proper identification. It is also known that those in hiding will be the last removed from the building. When authorities come to the scene, stopping the threat is priority number one.
And finally, fighting. I have been asked that if an emergency occurs and I am in lockdown with a classroom of students, I am also giving them items to be able to “fight” back at the person trying to hurt them. The theory is that an individual highly trained in firearm usage would have a difficult time keeping a target if items were being thrown at them. Also, if by some chance the person trying to hurt us is taken down in my presence and I am able to get the firearm away from them, I should not be the one holding it. I am to throw it, put it in the garbage, get rid of it as far away from anyone else as possible.
Now, this is the drill I am trained in every year. As an educator I have also been trained to use a tourniquet – we have first aid bags down every hall in our building, bright red bags hanging in the hallways as a constant reminder of what is in there and what we are being asked to do. Now, there is not a bag in every classroom – but I have been trained how to use classroom items to also prepare a tourniquet. Or to compress a wound. We have decided that the elementary level of students does not get as much information about these drills as the middle and high school – however that may not be the case where your children go to school. Talk to your children, make sure they know what they need to do if someone is trying to hurt them. Talk to them after these drills happen in your schools – they are traumatic, even if they are just drills. Talk to your educators, get involved – the more people willing to support us in education, the safer our schools will be. I cannot stress enough the importance to having conversations with your children about these topics. The world we live in now says if they are old enough to go to school, they are old enough to know that there may be someone wanting to hurt them and what to do about it.
I am an educator. Each day I listen to other individuals make judgement and have opinions about the job I am doing. I am responsible for teaching students the basics, reading, writing, math, and most importantly, how to be a good human. I take on the responsibility of my students while they are in my care during the school day. When I began teaching, little did I realize that the occasional bump or bruise, bathroom accidents, or hunger was only the very beginning of what I would be asked to do. I am an educator, and I am a mother, and I will take on the responsibility of every child that walks through my classroom door; however, I can only hope that one day I will be confident that my child will be safe inside the walls of a school.