Preparing for the Unthinkable

Schools should be safe places. Institutions devoted to the education of children should never have to think about, or prepare for, a possible school shooting, stabbing or other violent action. Sadly, it happens, seemingly more often than ever. Making sense of a tragedy like the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, an event that defies reason and explanation, is impossible. However, teachers have had to face the hard truth that schools can be targets of violence, and have started taking steps to prepare themselves in case they come under fire.

How do we really prevent school shootings? This question has flummoxed everyone, from parents to educators to law enforcement, for decades. Some have suggested arming the teachers themselves, a controversial idea that has nevertheless been adopted by at least seven states. Other school officials think that armed guards would be helpful, including almost 90% of teachers polled in this CNN survey. While these various armed responses are options for many schools, teachers have also looked for other (unarmed) ways to prepare, leading a group in Florida to start taking shooter self-defense training.


The training course offers instruction on how to escape and take cover, but also ways to disable the shooter and fight back if attacked. Most importantly, educators learn strategies for when to run, hide or fight. When faced with a life-or-death situation, the natural response is often panic; what the teachers taking this class hope is that with the right training, they can at least stay calm and make life-saving decisions in a crisis.

In an ideal world, no one would have to fear for the lives of their children, especially at a school. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. While efforts are constantly being put forth to prevent shootings from occurring, including bullying prevention and counseling for troubled kids, bad things can still happen. What steps has your district taken to keep your students safe?

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