While recovering from the flu during the past ten days, I have had the opportunity to watch an unprecedented amount of television. When you are ill, the prospects of absorbing a great deal of information is not possible, but there is one thing that really made an impression upon me. Everyone has an opinion about guns and safety for our children. Eventually, this issue began to weigh heavily upon me. I thought about how have been in the position of insuring the safety of so many children over the past forty years as teacher, mother and grandmother.
The first thing that I thought about was drills. We live in California, where there are earthquakes and fires. At the time of the 1994 Northridge Earthquake I was at home. My son was living at home after college, and my daughter was still away at college. I began noticing horizontal cracks in the walls of my home that was built in 1929. I had lived there since 1973, and when I was told that I would have to move out because the house was no longer safe, I realized I had some big planning ahead. The house had slipped off of the foundation, and I was looking at two years of construction. The house had to be lifted five feet in the air, and a new foundation had to be poured. My sister was kind enough to open her home to me, and I moved everything from the house into a container in the driveway. Once a week, I entered the trailer to get clothes for the next week. During my lunch breaks I met with the contractors as the work continued.
During this time I was teaching second grade. Naturally, the earthquake drills were required often so that the children heeded my voice when I said "DROP." At that time, everyone knew to cover their heads with their arms and find a table or desk to go under. The drills became so much a part of our routine, that sometimes, when a large truck rattled along the back driveway near our classroom, the children automatically dropped without my saying a word. They knew that they had to be perfectly silent to wait for my instructions as to what they were to do next. They were not fearful because they knew that by practicing the drills, they would be safer in knowing what to do if there was another real earthquake.
We did fire drills in much the same way, except when the alarms went off for a fire drill, the children were expected to immediately line up and quickly exit the room to the outside field where they had a special place to be. They were used to having roll taken each time, as I said each of their names and they responded with "Here." They were not fearful because they felt safer in knowing what to do if there was a real fire.
So how would we make them feel safe with a gun drill? I have not decided on a solution for this one. What I do know is that a teacher's first responsibility is that of the emotional and physical safety of each child. I would not have time to go to a closet to unlock and use a gun if it became necessary. My focus would be on moving the children to a safer place such as a closet or supply room. If there was a shooter in the school, my instincts would lead me to the children, not to a gun cupboard. Also, do I want the children to know at their tender ages that there are crazy people who are out there wanting to kill people with guns? I don't think so. It's too much a loss of innocence.
Perhaps the solution is to have a guard at each location that knows how to handle a gun. Maybe that would help. Locked doors didn't help the children at Sandy Hook. Perhaps Congress needs to ban some of the most powerful weapons from everyone who is a civilian. Perhaps Congress needs to address the issues of helping the mentally ill. Perhaps we need to make sure that the issue of bullying is incorporated into our school curriculum.
I want our children to develop into independent, accountable young adults. I want them to know that as a teacher, I will respect their safety above all else. I want them to flourish in a world where bad guys are almost always found in movies that they are not allowed to watch! I want school to be the place that they can happily call their own.