Our friend Shannon Watts is back in the news again because her parent organization, Everytown, has joined with the two major teachers’ unions – AFT and NEA – to raise concerns about the value of active shooter drills which are now performed in 95% of all public schools. This follows a report on school safety issued by Everytown last year, which outlined some basic strategies endorsed by the unions who represent most of the teachers working in the 132,000 public schools every day.
School security has become a major issue because some of the worst mass shootings – Columbine, Sandy Hook, Parkland – have occurred in both elementary and high schools. And while a school building is still a very safe place, our friends in Fairfax and other loony-tunes gun nuts have been pushing the idea of arming teachers and conducting exercises to protect teachers and students from shooters, usually referred to as lockdown drills.
When I was in the 5th grade, we had to squat down under our desks because the Russians were going to drop an atomic bomb on our city and lying down underneath our desks would protect us from harm. I enjoyed these drills because it gave me an opportunity to fool around with my seat-mate Brenda, who had been left behind twice and was therefore already somewhat physically endowed. I had absolutely no idea who the Russians were or what the term ‘atomic bomb’ really meant. I didn’t know and I didn’t care. All I really cared about was trying to cop a quick feel from Brenda without Mrs. Morse interfering in our fun.
The lockdown drills now being conducted by a security industry are very unlike what I did to keep myself from being immolated by an atomic bomb. The drills require students to simulate a situation in which a shooter is roaming through their school, complete with warnings from teachers, maybe viewing a life-size replica of someone who has been shot, lining up and running out of the building in a minute or less. The companies which provide this service are now raking in more than $3 billion every year. Meanwhile, the kids often suffer from all kinds of psychologically-damaging reactions, and there’s no evidence that these drills make schools safer or more secure.
Shannon gave a solid interview on behalf of the new Everytown report. She was speaking on behalf of Everytown, but when it comes to school safety, she knows what she’s talking about because she also runs MOMS. And the MOMS organization must count at least several million mothers whose children attend school. So, when Shannon says that she hears again and again about kids who were terrified because they had to take part in lockdown drills, she isn’t just pushing out some alarmist messaging designed to raise more funds.
Right after Sandy Hook, the boys from Fairfax rolled out a school safety program called School Shield, which went nowhere fast. The program involved doing safety audits of school sites, training teachers to watch for threats, hardening school premises with better locks, more alarms and stronger doors. Nobody who is seriously concerned about school safety paid attention to this PR stunt because, after all, the NRA has been promoting the elimination of gun-free zones such as schools for years.
I have no issue with the security measures being promoted by Everytown which are endorsed by the AFT and the NEA. But perhaps as they move forward in this program, they might want to think of one more safety initiative as well.
Most school systems now have curricular attention being paid to violence, but the violence is usually defined as bullying or other forms of personal, physical abuse. Why not widen the definition of violence to include teaching the kids about the risk of guns? After all, there isn’t a school system anywhere that doesn’t expose its students to the risks of smoking, drugs, obesity and unprotected sex. So why should gun violence remain, as they say, the odd man out?