When I was a kid, growing up in the 1980s and ’90s, I never feared going to school. There were days when I didn’t want to deal with the resident bully or dreaded the likelihood of a pop quiz in a particular class, but I never, ever, not even once, feared for my life at school.
I am about to send my 4-year-old daughter Clare to preschool and I will admit I am experiencing some trepidation.
After the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, in May, my husband Bart and I had a heated disagreement about whether to introduce the subject of school shootings to Clare. Bart wanted her to see Uvalde play out on the news because “it’s life” and “she’ll experience active-shooter drills at school”. I was dead-set against introducing this reality to our innocent child. She has been putting on a backpack since she was just more than 2-years old, asking when she can go to school. Clare knows she finally will start school this month and she is giddy about it; she practically asks every day whether it’s the first day of school.
If we introduce school shootings to her now, it will be I, not Bart, who will be dragging Clare kicking and screaming onto the bus if she thinks there’s a chance she could be shot and killed at school.
Fortunately, Clare remains unaware that school shootings exist. Bart is right in some respects, however. As awful as it is to admit, mass shootings are the reality of our world today. Clare will be exposed to active-shooter drills at her school, and I am prepared for the school to introduce these to her and ready to talk about them with her after the fact. I’m not typically a reactive—rather than proactive—parent but, in this case, I refuse to create fear in my child’s innocent heart.
When I was in elementary school, during the Cold War, we had drills designed to prepare us for a bombing. We grabbed the heaviest book available, put it over our heads and scurried under our desks until the drill’s siren ended. I don’t recall how these drills were introduced to us but I never actually feared that we would be bombed while I was at school—just like I didn’t actually fear a tornado would strike my school or fire would break out, even though we practiced for these events, too. I want Clare to remain a child in all its glorious naiveté for as long as possible.
In this issue of retrofit, our “Trend Alert” writer Jim Schneider tackles the topic of school security, underscoring that, in this day and age, every school must have security and a worst-case scenario plan in place. The experts in Schneider’s article point out effective school security requires a multi-pronged approach: technology (devices, like cameras, alarms and locks), procedures (an emergency response plan) and people (training and drills for teachers, staff and students). In addition, the experts recommend building assessments as a starting point to identify and recommend solutions for vulnerable areas of a facility. Schneider provides a list of organizations who can help schools and other facilities gauge their security and implement improvements, emergency response plans and training.
Despite my anxiety, I still am excited for Clare to begin school. I can’t wait to see which subjects are her favorites, whether she will participate in sports and/or music, who her friends will be, and watch her grow and mature. However, I intend to be a proactive parent when it comes to my child’s safety at school and will give a copy of this issue—open to “Trend Alert”—to Clare’s school administrators the moment the issue comes off the press.
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