Dear Parents of America,
I don’t know how you do it. As the news broke last week, and the death toll rose, and then the children started speaking out, so brilliantly and bravely, all I could think was, how do you live like this? How can you bear to send your children into school each day, knowing that today you might be the parent that receives a terrified text from your child. That you will be the parent dropping everything to race to their school, powerless to do anything other than to hope and pray to whatever god you believe in that your child will be spared.
And how on Earth do you send your five year old to school for the first time, knowing that they will have to undertake active shooting drills. How do you even explain that to a five year old? I cannot imagine living with that as a norm. A US parent wrote that at their school, children are taught to run around and make noise if a shooter enters the classroom – something I have since learnt is based on the ‘run, hide, fight’ approach, and assumes that once the shooter is in the classroom, the only option is to fight. Your children are being taught to confront shooters. How do you square that away when you lie in bed at night?
There is little research currently available as to the most successful (ie life-preserving) way for civilians to respond in a mass shooting. As far back as 2014, the National Association of School Psychologists recommended that while lockdown-based drills can be effective in minimizing injuries, not much research has been devoted to the “run, hide, fight” approach. The Association also cautioned that schools should not make active shooter drills mandatory, citing concerns about the impact on children’s mental well-being*. I cannot imagine being taught to run around and scream in the face of a shooter. I find it even harder to imagine someone telling my four year old, who started school in September, to do this.
Tragedies happen across the globe on a far too frequent basis. War, natural disaster, famine, disease, terrorism all claim our children’s lives and it is awful. But for kids to be dying at school, when there is no war, or natural disaster to cause it, just a simple law that allows people (even people with mental health issues) to buy guns – that seems like insanity to me. It makes me so angry. I cannot begin to fathom how angry it must make you.
In 1996 the UK was rocked when a shooter entered a classroom in Dunblane, killing 16 children and one teacher. The outcry in the wake of that tragedy paved the way for two Firearms Acts banning most cases of handgun ownership in Great Britain. We have not had a school shooting since.
I cannot imagine how your hearts must break every time you hear about another school shooting. It hurts my heart, and it is not a living reality for me. But it was parents, with media support, that brought about change in the UK. You, and those incredible kids who are speaking up in the wake of the latest tragedy, have got this. You can make a difference. Keep protesting. Keep shouting. Your voices will be heard.
Love a British Mum who has shed many tears with you this past week x
*you can read their report here: http://www.nasponline.org/Documents/Research%20and%20Policy/Advocacy%20Resources/BP_Armed_Assailant_Drills.pdf