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Practicing for School Shootings in First Grade

What do you think of when you hear Columbine?

It wasn’t the conversation I was expecting to have on the way home from her gymnastics class on Wednesday night.

“We practiced something new at school today! It was called a Code Red.”

“A code red? What’s that?”

“It means there’s an intruder in the school that isn’t nice so we have to hide from them.”

I’m well aware of school shootings and the one that happened recently in Ohio, I can remember exactly where I was in eleventh grade when news of the Columbine shootings came through. I was at school late rehearsing for a play and every TV in every classroom was tuned to the news. At that point in my life I had never seen a gun that wasn’t holstered by a police officer let alone in the hands of a kid my age.

Now my kid, at seven years old, is practicing how to hide from a shooter in first grade.

While violence within schools and among juveniles has actually decreased statistically, the reality of violence at school has become more apparent with social media. While physical violence hasn’t increased, mental and emotional violence has increased with school and cyber bullying. The school has a weekly ‘family meeting’ with a social worker who discusses bullying and role plays different scenarios with the kids, but this code red business caught me off guard.

She described how her and her classmates had to huddle together in a corner away from a window while the teacher watched over the door. I asked her why they needed to do that and she just said “If the principal says ‘code red!’ over the intercom we just have to huddle together to keep safe because a dangerous stranger got into the building.” I didn’t want to push much further than that.

I realize the chances of a school shooting at her school is very low, and I’m grateful that they’re not freaking the kids out and having them practice drills just like with fires and earthquakes, but I just can’t handle the idea of something actually going wrong and her huddled in a corner scared without me.

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