On Tuesday, a gunman murdered 19 children and two adults when he opened fire at a Texas elementary school. The horrific act of violence offered a stark reminder of the realities all kids face in their classrooms every single day.
Erin Alberty, a reporter for Axios, took to Twitter to share a conversation she had with her daughter about the events of yesterday. “I just told my 3rd grader about the shooting,” Alberty wrote. “She replied: ‘Yeah. We had a lockdown drill today. There aren’t very many hiding places in our room. The good ones all get taken in like 3 seconds.’ Then she left.”
Parents responded to that tweet by describing their own experiences with active shooter drills, each story heartbreaking and devastating. “My daughter described how to hide in the bathroom while standing on a toilet with the door slightly ajar so it looks open and empty. THE F*CK. she was 7,” one Twitter user wrote. “She should never be worrying about that. God bless the kids in war zones. I can’t even imagine.”
Then there were the insights from the people who are actually in the classrooms, going through these drills. “I’m a high school teacher and we had one the lockdown drills where they come and rattle the doors,” a Twitter user said. “Student looks at me and whispers ‘is this when I text my mom to say I love her?’ #EnoughIsEnough.”
A former teacher added: “What they don’t tell you is teachers are told in training that they have to lock out any of their students who are out of the classroom, *out of the classroom*. Even if they beg and bang on the door. Because there could be a shooter using them to access your classroom.”
That horrible fact prompted others to share their own stories about this particular gut-wrenching aspect of drills.
“My son’s friend was in the hallway when they had a lockdown drill, and was locked out,” a user recalled. “My son still has nightmares about him screaming and banging on the door, and that was just a drill. 4th grade. My son stopped going to the bathroom at school, afraid he would be locked out.”
Active shooter drills are having a significant impact on the students, staff and parents who are going through them. According to Everytown for Gun Safety, stress and anxiety are highest among high school communities in the 90 days following drills. Middle school students, parents, and teachers experience “the greatest increase” in depression after drills. “I can tell you personally, just as an educator, we were not okay [after drills],” one K-12 teacher told Everytown. “We were in bathrooms crying, shaking, not sleeping for months. The consensus from my friends and peers is that we are not okay.”
These drills are a form of trauma themselves, Leslie Carr, clinical psychologist and an expert in how trauma, stress, culture, and digital technology impact the mind, told SheKnows. “When push comes to shove, I don’t know who thought it was a good idea to try to train kids for their trauma,” she said. “…We are putting the responsibility for their safety on them arguably by saying that if an active shooter goes into their school it’s on them to get themselves to safety. It’s so, pardon my language, but f*cked up.”
When it comes to speaking to kids about active shooter drills and school shootings, Carr told us that there’s really no easy solution. “I think it’s really important for parents to engage their kids in conversation at whatever level the kid is capable of operating at, to just express a lot of curiosity and really listen to whatever the answer is and not make the answer wrong,” she said.
Feeling lost on what steps to take next? Here are five ways to fight for gun control right now.
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