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Lock-Down Drills Don’t Help, They Just Terrify Our Kids

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scared boy hidingOne day last year, after picking up my son from kindergarten, I asked him how his day was and got a different answer from the typical, “Good.” He said, “Not too good. We did a lock-down drill.” I knew about these drills and assumed they would be happening at some point, but to my knowledge this was the first time my one of my kids had participated in one. I kept my voice neutral and said, “Oh? What was that like?” “Scary,” he said, and started to cry.

One brave teacher’s recent op-ed piece in the Washington Post was called, “Rehearsing for death: A pre-k teacher on the trouble with lock-down drills.” In it, she describes the terror that she and her students experience during these drills. While reading it I pictured my sweet son, hiding in a closet in complete silence, not knowing why, but knowing enough to understand that it was scary. And I hate it. I don’t hate it in a “this is a necessary evil” kind of way, but in a “this is harming my children” kind of way.

I cannot stand the idea that my children are being taught how to hide and hope not to be murdered. What good does this do for them other than remind them once or twice a year that at any moment they could be holding their breath, trying not to attract the attention of a killer? My kids are six-years-old – they still don’t know that there are people out there who will murder children they don’t know for no reason. The fact that this is part of their reality makes me want to scream. And I refuse to believe that these drills are our best answer.

My kids’ school has fire drills, earthquake drills, and lock-down drills. Two drills meant to deal with natural disasters that mean them no ill will, and a third that is meant to protect them from another person who is trying to hunt them down. We have no control over the first two, and little control over the last, but there are so many things we can do to keep our kids safer that we are refusing to do in the name of our personal freedoms. After Sandy Hook, I was convinced that we would finally have some kind of meaningful gun control legislation. After all, the worst had happened: someone had walked into a school and murdered first-graders. This had to be the final straw, right? There was no way we could say no to things like background checks and limits to magazine sizes after that, right?

Well, you all know how that went. Shockingly, our country selfishly decided that it was more important that no one get to tell us what to do than it was to keep our children safe. So instead we have schools that anyone can walk into with a gun at any time, and we teach our children and their teachers to cower and pray for their lives in response. We are raising children who feel unsafe at school, and who are reminded every time they go through those god-awful drills that they are always in danger, and that their lives could be at risk at any time.

So what is my answer? Nothing realistic. We can’t stop lock-down drills because right now they are the only form of resistance we have to prevent our children from being shot dead in their classrooms. And that is because we refuse to do anything meaningful to truly protect our children. But we do need to make sure that people know that these drills are not harmless, and they are not empowering. They are not the solution, in fact, they are barely even a band-aid. As teacher Launa Hill so eloquently put it in her piece, “It’s time to stop rehearsing our deaths and start screaming.”

(Photo: Jan Mika / Shutterstock)