There’s no way to sugar coat it: schools in the United States just aren't the same safe place they once were. No longer can parents rest easy with the notion that their child is safe in their classrooms, among friends and faculty. Before we get into safety, we have to go back in time; take a full look at the trends and changes that have helped to shape this modern day epidemic.
Going all the way back to the mid-late 1800's, there have been school shootings on record. This, like war, shouldn't be a surprise to anyone. Societies have always had a tough time getting along without violence and will continue to through the foreseeable future. At times, the commonality could be mental health, but more often than not, it's simply insecurity, indifference, fear, revenge and hate that drive these horrific events.
The tragedies we are going to uncover will illustrate the changes through time as we reach our current state of affairs. We now have hundreds of school shootings, some basic, some extreme and many unforgettable. While we can't always help other kids we don't parent, we can certainly audit behaviors and teach our own children. Our end goal should be to protect the children, not only how to avoid and survive as these events become more common, potentially at our own child's schools; but hopefully how to stop the gun violence through involvement.
A moment to change perspectives
It's difficult to relate individual perspectives of all parties in these types of conversations, but we would be remiss if we didn't share this PSA. It's one of the most compelling points of view that deserves the time and attention of every parent in the USA, including the readers of this article.
History, Guns & Culture
Let's start with the earlier recordings of school shootings in the 1800's and move our way forward as elegantly as possible. Firstly, it's important to note that the first public school was created in 1635. We've been keeping track of history since long before that and guns have been around since around the 10th century. However, there's no coincidence that our timeline falls in sync with the dawn of modern guns. Early on, men had duels to settle disputes with weapons. They packed a single shot into a gun, took ten paces, turned and fired. Nonetheless at the transition into the early-mid 1800's there was a shift in weapons. Specifically, Remington and Colt closely time-wise invented what we know of now as the modern gun. It was all the rage, since now it could be carried easily and could be shot multiple times. This is where the turning point took place as it pertained to school shootings.
The shooting infrequency we just mentioned continued on through the 1950's, many times not happening at all for years. More interesting than not, there were no more "mass death" incidents and no mass shootings, until the 1960's.
As the early stages of the modern era began to unfold, so did access and communication of our actions. Racial tensions had reached a peak in the 1960's during the civil rights movements while we were trying to undo centuries of oppression on black Americans and we were about to face our first major tragedy by way of mass shooting.
The 1970's brought more frequency of school shootings, with mass shootings rising as well. There were around five mass shootings in the 1970's and the 1980's were no different. The increase in both continued to rise until we couldn't count them on both hands. We have reached the boiling point, communication is now everywhere, pharmaceutical drugs are prescribed at epidemic levels toying with emotional and mental states, and the ability to purchase guns is at nearly every corner.
At present time, the list of horrific events where many have been killed is unprecedented. From the Stockton shootings, to Columbine, to Virginia Tech to one of the most recent shootings in Parkland, it's evident that the trend is on an exponential curve. The unfortunate reality is that it's not only the mass shootings have risen, but we have also gone from five "deadly school events" a year to over thirty a year, sometimes more.
“You don’t need no gun control, you know what you need? We need some bullet control. Men, we need to control the bullets, that’s right. I think all bullets should cost five thousand dollars… five thousand dollars per bullet… You know why? Cause if a bullet cost five thousand dollars there would be no more innocent bystanders.”Chris Rock
While this may be controversial to some, the facts show otherwise: as guns have become more available, easier to access and less expensive, it's created a direct correlation to the use of guns for these events. That's not to say guns are the only derivative; it's quite possible that the rise of SSRI's and other mind-altering prescriptions have led to an uptick in these occurrences as of late. SSRI's, however, don't overshadow the availability of guns themselves.
Understand the school’s protocol
Every school has its own “school shooting” protocol and its important for you to know what that is so you can explain it to your child. Many schools will have a drill for children and parent to both join. If your school doesn't, ask the principal to provide detailed instructions or ask for this event. Your children likely have practiced "safety drills" so to not mention school shooting or other less appealing topics, but all school have lock down procedures that the children must learn. We realize this is hard to swallow, but ask your children about these events and help them understand the reality of these practices in an age appropriate manner. While their school is hopefully drilling and preparing their students for such an event, personally ensuring that you child knows what to do can be life-saving.
Hide behind something solid
One of the most important aspects of staying safe during a school shooting is hiding and staying out of sight. However, not all surfaces and objects are bulletproof. For example, bathrooms can be one of the worst places to hide as they have no windows, the stalls are easily penetrable by bullets and there’s only one way out. Educate your child about what objects are more bulletproof, such as a large tree or concrete planters. If your child can evacuate at the sound of these events, inform them to immediately get a teacher to initiate lockdown and evacuation procedures (depending on age, evacuation may be the best choice no matter what ).
In most cases, school shooters are looking to harm as many easy targets as possible, as quickly as possible. Once an event starts, things go from controlled chais to just chaos, keeping a level head with a little bit of strategy can go a long way. As a result, adding obstacles for the shooter to have to force their way through can make them give up quickly and move to another target. Move filing cabinets, desks or anything else for that matter in front of the door to barricade the entrance. If the door or classroom has windows, make sure to hide out of sight.
Keep your body off the ground
When hiding, make sure you instruct your child to keep their body off the floor. When bullets ricochet off of surfaces, they often travel along the path of the hard surfaces, even water oddly enough. As a result, any part of your child’s body that is touching the floor is at risk of being shot. Instead, tell them to stay on their hands and knees, as these areas can be shot without risking immediate death. Graphic, we know, but important as it pertains to your child's chances of survival.
Run in a zig-zag
Most school shooters are inexperienced gunmen and are much less accurate. If the situation arises where your child needs to run, teach them how to run in a serpentine motion. By zig-zagging while they run, they’ll reduce the likelihood of being shot. Also, make sure they understand the principle of running cover-to-cover. Stying under cover or behind cover from each movement. As soon as a left or right turn is available, take it. Avoid being out in the open as much as possible, even if you are zig-zagging while running.
Get involved with your PTA
While you may feel powerless in such a situation, getting involved with your PTA is a great way to help bring light to certain situations. Use this opportunity to learn more about what your school is doing to prepare its students for these tragic events and how you can help. Also, make sure to ask about how the school wants parents to act during a school shooting. Making sure that law enforcement, parents and faculty members are all on the same page can help to neutralize the situation efficiently and safely.
Above all, teach your child to be alert and aware of their surroundings at all times. This can be accomplished various ways, like martial arts classes, which can teach them how to react in a chaotic situation and also teach them to defend themselves in a worst-case-scenario kind of situation. Tell them to pay attention to how their peers are acting and when they should talk to an adult about a possible risky individual.