Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Will This Be On The Test?

I don't remember exactly how long it was between the time that I read the article about criticism of "traditional" lockdown procedures and the news that came, yet again, from Colorado. This time it was an eighteen year-old at Arapahoe High School in Centennial. Karl Halverson Pierson went back to his school with a shotgun, seeking his school librarian and debate team coach. Not finding his target at the school, he shot two other students and then killed himself. Arapahoe High is about ten miles away from Columbine High. And about fourteen years.
You might think that after all this time the sight of SWAT teams descending on schools wouldn't raise such a stir with me. Or maybe it was the fact that it came on the eve of the one year anniversary of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary. One year ago, Newtown was another one of those little-known spots back east, just like Littleton was just a suburb of Denver before it became part of the list of spots on the map marked by tragedy. Once upon a time, my niece went to an elementary school, the same one my brothers and I attended, and it was called Columbine. They had a fundraiser called the "Mile Marathon," and she got me a T-shirt as a souvenir. The design featured a number of silhouettes of boys and girls running. It was only after the events of April 20, 1999 that that image became something I felt uncomfortable wearing. It stopped being a memento of that time in my niece's youth and became something people would look at me sideways for wearing outside the house. It's the reason they decided to bulldoze Sandy Hook Elementary.  The only memories there are dark ones.
Back to the article which started this parade of bleak: It has lately been suggested that rather than having our kids locked in a room, cowering and waiting for the bad guys to come and kill them, that we should rise up and defend ourselves. This goes beyond the initial suggestions that teachers start carrying guns. It has been suggested that we train the students to fight back. With schools making up more than a third of the "Active Shooter Events" each year, according to a report from Texas State University that studied ASEs over the past decade,  that makes sense, right? Of the forty-one cases the study looked at, sixteen were ended by the victims subduing the shooter. Twenty-one culminated by the shooter killing himself. It's a pretty slim margin, but the trend suggests that if you wait the bad guys out, they will end up taking care of the problem themselves. Why should we ask teachers, administrators and kids to put themselves in danger?
Maybe because we're all getting more than just a little tired of being held hostage by the potential of a crazed gunman showing up at your school, mall, or business, looking to settle some score that makes sense to no one except the guy carrying the shotgun. We're angry. We're scared. It's a bad combination. It flies directly in the face of the things I learned in my first weeks in teacher school: Maslow's hierarchy of Needs. We are charged with providing our kids first with a safe place to do the learning that we can only do when that security is felt. It can't happen at the end of a gun. Do I have an answer? No, but I can't say that I ever expected that this is a question that I would be asked.

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