It's Not Okay To Just Wait for the Next School Shooting

 It was my 2nd year teaching.  I was in my first grade classroom working with a small group when we our assistant principal came over the speaker.


"Teachers.  Bus 99 has arrived at the school.  Bus 99 is here."


Anyone else know what bus 99 meant?  Back in the day, that was code for lockdown.  Our elementary school was in lockdown because we had an intruder on campus.


I quickly and as calmly as I knew how, gathered my firsties, crammed us all in the corner of my classroom where we couldn't be seen from the door.  That actually was our classroom library, our reading corral, and so we all squished inside the corral fences.  I turned out the lights, closed the blinds, locked the door and then squished inside with my school babies.


And then I did what many other teachers do around the country when this happens.  I read a book.  I grabbed a Dr. Seuss book from the library and read with the calmest, happiest voice on the outside while my heart beat out of my chest in desperate prayers on the inside.  When I finished one book, I answered questions from kids who were starting to get restless and nervous.  I answered as honestly and calmly as I could and gave little information because... I had no information at all about what was happening outside my classroom.


Just to set the time frame for you...  I'm not kidding when I say I had no info.  There was no massive group text.  There was no app to sound an alarm.  The only internet access I had was on my desktop computer clear across the room from where we were.  I taught with an overhead projector, not a digital whiteboard.  And no one knew what an iPhone was.  Instead, I was frantically texting my husband, "I love you"s from my super cool Nokia phone. :)  It literally feels like it was a completely different age of teaching.


What seemed like hours, was really only minutes that passed when we finally got the announcement that Bus 99 had left the school.  And we could resume normal teaching... ha.  Yeah right.  Like anything normal was happening for the rest of the day!  


Years later, we've exchanged bus 99 for ALICE training here in our state.  We locked all outside doors and drastically increased our visitor protocols.  We know more about how to keep our kids safe and what to do in these situations.  We practice with our kids on what to do at least once a month.  And we brainstorm with even our littlest kindergartners on strategies to barricade our classrooms and stop an intruder.


We do this acting like we teach in some kind of war zone.


Because actually, we kinda do.  


Here, in the United States of America, we send our most precious possessions to school in a country where there are more guns than we have people.  In a country where it is legal to buy a military assault riffle.  Where background checks aren't strong enough.  Where kids can, on their 18th birthday, go buy the most lethal of weapons and take out their anger on our most vulnerable.


Are guns the only problem?  No.  We have a mental health crisis like nothing we've ever seen.  


Is easy access to guns the only problem?  No.  People will find a way to a gun, legally or illegally if they are motivated enough.


Does the 2nd Amendment need to be scratched out of the constitution?  No.  I believe we should protect our right to bear arms... with in reason.  


(But remember, there were no assault weapons when our founding fathers wrote the constitution.   There were muskets and rifles that took about 20 seconds to load between shots.  That's a massive difference.)


I pray that this time, our lawmakers are willing to sit down and have a personal conversation.  Not a Democrat to Republican chat.  Not political discourse.  But an actual conversation between human beings.  I hope we can forget about the high dollar lobbyists and agree on some simple, common sense measures that will make a big impact like banning assault weapons and stiffening background checks.


Because this is the only country in the world where this happens routinely.  And we all cry, are sad, change our profile pics to "Pray for _____" and then a few weeks later go back to our normal lives fully expecting this to happen again.


It has to stop.  Our kids shouldn't have to spend their school day planning for a war with a shooter.   Our teachers shouldn't have to go to work in fear wondering when their school will be the next headline.  Our parents shouldn't have to pray their kids come home from school when they drop them off.  It. Has. To. Stop.


Years ago, in my own school lockdown, I would find out after school that day that one of my colleagues was threatened by a very angry parent and had come to the school.  Thankfully, our school resource officers diffused the situation quickly and everything was okay.  


But for so many schools, teachers, communities, students and parents, it hasn't been okay.  And until we decide to ask our lawmakers to sit down and solve a problem reasonably with children in mind, another school is just waiting to be next in a long line of tragic, not okay endings.


Feeling helpless like me?  Contact your US Reps and Senators and let them know that enough is enough.

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