Between arming security guards or placing metal detectors in every school and other, more sensible security precautions, a wide difference of opinion exists about what America’s schools need to do to be safer from intruders with guns.
One strategy is to prepare children for the horrific possibility that an evil person could enter their building armed to kill. Since the mass shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado back in 1999, students have been practicing staying safe from shooters with drills and lockdowns, practices that grew more intense after the deaths of 26 children and staff shot at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in 2012 and 17 people at a high school in Florida in 2018. In 2017, three people died, including the shooter, at Aztec High School in New Mexico. No one is immune from this contagion.
In Santa Fe Public Schools, making students safer has centered on improving building security: everything from ensuring a single point of entry at schools, more rigorous screening of visitors and encouraging students and staff to speak out if they see something suspicious. Wisely, the Santa Fe Public Schools Board of Education and district officials have decided against arming teachers or security guards with weapons.
This year, though, officials want to show a video to students showcasing the latest recommendations about what to do if an active shooter shows up. The run, hide and fight strategy, developed by the Department of Homeland Security, is designed to prepare people in case the unthinkable occurs. Unhappy with graphic videos made for other districts, Superintendent Veronica García and others decided to make their own — called, naturally, “Run, Hide, Fight.”
After letting parents know through robocalls and email last week, some parents were unhappy with the district’s approach. We’re sure, too, that parents who called for arming security guards also are unhappy — and at meetings with García in recent years, parents who showed up to speak wanted what they saw as greater protection for their children at school.
We’d agree with critics that children are not responsible for their own safety. That is the job of adults. But adults in the wider society are failing children. Individuals have not locked up guns where disturbed children can’t get them, making it too easy for angry shooters to aim their rage at live bodies. Lawmakers have been afraid of gun rights lobbyists; that’s why the assault weapons ban has not been renewed and high-capacity magazines remain legal.
Needing to show children how to escape shooters is a sign of a deeper sickness in society. Still, preparation beats ignoring reality. Even at this newspaper, staff members have watched their own version of a run, hide and fight video — with the hope that such violence never intrudes and recognition that such violence still is extremely rare.
We can report that the district-created video is hardly graphic. Parents were notified about it in advance; and, if it is shown at school, parents can excuse their children from watching. Otherwise, families could watch together. (The link is youtu.be/EzoaLa409PQ.) There’s nothing wrong with preparing children for potential disaster. Yes, kids should watch this video if they are old enough. Parents can choose to shield their children if they desire.
Most of all, this video is hardly all that our schools are doing to prepare children not just for danger at school, but in the wider world. For the moment, though, discussing the video offers an opportunity for more conversations between parents and school staff about how the community can protect children — it’s created an opportunity, one that should be seized. The common goal? Keeping children safe, both in body and mind.