(first published February 19, 2018)
Last Wednesday, the day that seventeen young people were murdered in their school in Parkland, Florida, one of my own children’s teachers interrupted the regular curriculum to talk to them about what to do if an “active shooter” showed up at their school. Here’s what he told them: If the shooter is in the school building but not nearby, dive out the windows of the classroom and run like hell. But if he is nearby, one person gets to hide in a closet. Maybe two children can fit under the teacher’s desk. Everyone else should cower near the windows, where the shooter might not be able to see them and thus go to the next classroom. If the shooter enters the classroom anyway, the teacher will stand by the door with something heavy like a stool and try to disarm them before they open fire.
As it happens, the teacher delivered this little lecture before anyone knew of the terrible tragedy unfolding at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. At schools across the US, it has become fairly routine for teachers and kids to talk about this kind of horror. Preparing for the possibility of being gunned down in a classroom will be part of my children’s memory of their school years. This is what it means for gun violence to be normalized in American society.