Active Shooter Drills Are Now Just Part Of School Curriculum, And It’s Not Normal

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Disclaimer: This story includes mass shooting topics that may be triggering to some.

“Nineteen children in Uvalde, Texas, many around the age of 10, did not make it home to their families.

I wonder if the kids in Uvalde sat through active shooter drills like the one my son had. Did they remember the lessons they were taught? Did they have time to run for cover, barricade doors, turn off the lights and cower in silence? Did they arm themselves with sharp pencils and scissors? How many of them threw books at the killer? Did they run as fast as they could, faster than bullets? All ridiculous questions, but that’s what they’ve been taught.

I can’t imagine what the kids could have done to defend themselves against the cascade of bullets that rained on them from the murderer’s AR. It’s insane that we make our children take responsibility for defending themselves against gun violence, but time and time again, we do.

Courtesy of Nina Tarnay

3.5 years and countless school shootings ago, I wrote the following:

These are the things a 10-year-old, 5th grader, should be learning and doing in school:

Reading at a level typically between Q-W,

Practicing addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division of whole and mixed numbers,

Expanding their knowledge of space and earth sciences,

Exploring U.S. history,

Playing kickball, basketball, and handball,

Eating lunch and talking to friends about what they’ve built on Minecraft,

Goofing off and cracking lame 5th-grade jokes,

Preparing for middle school.

Things my 10-year-old told me he learned in school today:

If an active shooter storms the school, he should immediately run for the nearest classroom. A teacher will bolt the door closed and do what he or she can to protect him and any classmates who make it inside.

Once inside, he should hide and not make any noise. All the lights will be turned off and any opened blinds will be shut. Try to stay calm. Help should be on the way.

If he’s caught outside (like during lunch, recess, or PE) and all the doors are already bolted shut, he should run to the nearest gate and try to do what he can to escape. He should climb over and under the fence if necessary. He should do whatever it takes to get away. Once he evades the shooter, he should meet at the designated location discussed in class today (but he admitted that if he made it out, he’d run straight home).

If necessary, he and his classmates should do whatever they can to defend themselves. They can arm themselves with weapons made out of common classroom items. Sharp pencils or pens can be used to stab someone. Scissors would definitely make good weapons. You can also throw heavy books at a shooter. Even a jump rope can come in handy and be used to trip a bad guy. These are the weapons my 5th grader thinks he can use to protect himself. From an active shooter. Sharp pencils vs. assault rifles.

A young boy wearing a black T-shirt stands against an orange background
Courtesy of Nina Tarnay

Even more troubling was how matter-of-factly my son shared these lessons with me. Like a new math concept. Or an interesting fact about a mission to the moon. Or some more obscure part of U.S. history I had long forgotten. Just another 5th-grade lesson.

Active shooter preparation is now just another part of all school curricula. Active shooter drills are also taking place at our local middle and high school. Part of an email from our middle school principal says, ‘During the lockdown drill, teachers will lock their doors, pull down their shades/blinds, direct students away from windows, and also silence devices. Teachers will also barricade the doors and students will pick up an object such as a water bottle or book, hide and remain quiet until the drill is complete.’ At the high school, we were informed that ‘It is important for us to rehearse with students, staff, [the police] and emergency responders what we will do in the event of an active shooter scenario.’

This is the insanity that has permeated every school, every community. Teachers are tasked with teaching about active shooters and protecting classrooms full of children from bullets. Rapid-fire, lethal bullets. Children are tasked with learning how to hide, evade and protect themselves from an active shooter.

Armed with pencils, jump ropes, books, and water bottles, they’re preparing for what seems like an inevitable scenario. Why bother passing sensible gun laws to stop mass shootings when we can just fortify our schools, arm our teachers, and ensure that kids know what to do when the day finally arrives. There are plenty of sharp pencils, jump ropes, water bottles and books in school.

Our kids should be okay.

Except they’re not.”

Courtesy of Ken Pagliaro

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Nina Trieu Tarnay of Manhattan Beach, CA. You can follow her journey on  Instagram and Twitter. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribeto our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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