Educational Consulting and Life Coaching

Search

Uvalde Q & A: What Parents Want and Need to Know About Guns and Schools as Gun-Free Zones





Welcome to the Wise Instruction Blog! I’m Lora. Or Ms. Rooks, as my students call me. Or Laoshi Lao Li as my other students call me. Or Ms. Hacienda, Ice, Crash, Water Princess…and many other affectionate nicknames that mean nothing to you, but loving connection to me and my students. I have served over 5,000 of them at last count.


I am assuming some of you don’t know who I am. Since this topic has the potential to be particularly viral, you deserve to know what qualifies me to comment.


So, allow me to introduce myself in brief. I am a 22-year career educator that has taught kindergarten to Ph.D. students in the United States and East Asia. I have a Master’s Degree in Second Language Acquisition and have taught nearly every other subject taught in a typical elementary school classroom. My speciality is Writing, because as I told my middle school students: `’A pen is a sword.” Rather ironic for this title, ain’t it?


I would like to preface my comments with a little more of my family background: my Father was a school psychologist and high school dropout interventionist in the largest inner-city school district in Phoenix, Arizona. My Mother also worked in schools in the office of the Superintendent. Later, she ran a successful home daycare and preschool for over thirty years. She taught scores of little ones school readiness, emotional, and social skills before any of that was in vogue. Most of my family has a background in communications and mental healthcare. Collectively, we have processed the realities of humanity at high capacity. May this add some earned credibility to my comments.


You can also read more in the About Me section of my website: www.wiseinstruction.com. I would love to serve you there. Thanks!



 

Originally I had some ideas about this blog about the Uvalde, Texas Robb Elementary School tragedy:


  1. Craft my own thoughts about the matter.


I decided instead to turn this into Question/Answer format, so readers could provide input on what matters on the guns and schools issue–from their perspective.


2. Make it into a series of posts.


I nixed this, as taking information out of context is the fastest way to misrepresent someone. Although this post is lengthy, it is comprehensive and from my heart.


I hope you will pass on this post to your friends and family who are concerned about school safety or who are considering homeschooling as a result of our current societal realities. Hopefully, doing so will save life and reduce the traumas plaguing us. For the Q and A, read on…





Have seen a positive or negative effect from lockdown drills in students? My son would have trouble sleeping for a few days whenever there was a drill. It’s a tremendous burden to bear for young kids but the likelihood of this (shooting) happening is much more likely than a fire drill.


The main difference I have noticed in students about lockdown drills compared to other types of drills is many more questions.


A fire drill is rather cut and dry; get out of the building, stand in a line with your teacher, and wait for the “all clear” announcement. However, with lock down drills, students have actually received conflicting information about how to handle such an event. Do we turn the lights on or off? Lock ourselves in or run to escape? Stay quiet or call for help? I would ask your local law enforcement the suggested protocol and then take that to your school administration. Why we would have to consider this as civilians is beyond me, but it is what it is…


Shooters move more erratically and with premeditation, versus a natural disaster which acts in more predictable ways as to when it will end.


Young children don’t often understand what is going on during drills. Older students, especially my middle schoolers, feel obliged to protect themselves, their peers, and even teachers and other adults. I especially see the boys thinking out loud defensively or offensively about how to handle an intruder. They even debate about it among themselves.


This is where the pain point is: who is going to protect us? How can we protect ourselves?


How can we (adults) be prepared without placing such a burden on kids? (As you know this particular tragedy happened an hour from us and was a fourth grade class-my older son’s age.)


The burden is on kids. It is! Let that sink in, please.


It is also on teachers, but many kids feel the need to protect as well. Fear happens when people feel helpless - kids and adults both. In our current culture, it is commonly known that it may take first responders up to 15 minutes to respond to an emergency; their resources are stretched beyond capacity in many locations.


More about how to address this sad reality later in this post…


Parents need to have a plan with their children about how to connect if an emergency arises. This is problematic because most classrooms do not permit students to have their phone on their person, and younger students often do not have phones. However, planning a spot near campus (or two) to meet up after the school releases them would give some students a bit of comfort. The unknown also scares children.


Have a proactive approach with your child’s teachers. If you children are particularly afraid of a lockdown, please let their teachers know that way before they are practiced. Find out how often the school conducts types of drills. Most drills are by design unscheduled, but sometimes there is a bit of notice. They probably cannot tell you the exact day or time, but they can give you a heads up about the frequency of these practices. It would be a good idea to know about the schedule so you can debrief with your child afterwards.


Teachers have been trained to handle students during drills, but that does not mean they would not appreciate support in an actual emergency. If I had a room parent I could call in an actual emergency that would be welcomed. This room parent could activate a phone tree for my classroom removing much pressure off of me in a time of crisis. Your child’s teacher may have their own children in another classroom or campus that they will feel worried about. You could offer to scout for them if needed, so that they can better concentrate on their students (which they will do anyway). It is a nice way to show compassion.




Some days I want to keep my children innocent of such a tragedy and hide the news from them but it’s hard when it’s so close to home and can read.


It is really important to openly dialogue with your child about the tragic realities of life, but in an age-appropriate way. Remember your child will be more afraid when they are more confused. Keeping your child ignorant in the name of protecting their innocence is not really an option at this point. I wish it were. I long for the Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood days. Perhaps one day they will return…


Here is an example of how I would talk about a lockdown situation with different ages:


Pre-K to 2nd Grade: “Your teacher has a plan to keep you safe if something dangerous happens at school. You will be (or have been) practicing it.


Tell me about what you do when you need to stay in the classroom quietly: where do you sit? What can you do while you wait? What can you not do? Why? After the emergency is over, Mom and Dad will check on you. God is always there even if it takes us some time to find you. What do you think about this? What are your feelings about it? Let’s pray together about them now.”


3-6th Grade: “Your teacher has a plan to keep you safe if something dangerous happens at school. You will be (or have been) practicing it.


Tell me about the steps and the rules? Why do you think there are rules and drills?


What do you friends think about the drills? Do you sit near them? Why or why not? What would help you feel more comfortable (or at least pleasantly distracted) during a drill?


After the emergency is over, what do you think would work best for Mom and Dad to locate you? Where would you like to meet if we can’t get into the school? God is always there even if it takes us some time to find you. Is there anything we should tell or ask your teacher about drills? Let’s pray together now.”


7th Grade +: “Your school has a plan to keep you safe if something dangerous happens at school. You will be (or have been) practicing it.


Tell me about the steps and the rules… Why do you think there are rules and drills? What do you friends think about the drills? Do you sit near them during the drill? Why or why not? What would help you feel more comfortable (or at least pleasantly distracted) during a drill?


After the emergency is over, what do you think would work best for Mom and Dad to locate you? We would (not) like you to call/drive/meet us here: _____. Do you think that would work well, or should we set up a Plan B?


What are your concerns about these drills, and what do you think would be possible solutions? Have your classmates discussed escape routes or ways to defend yourself (especially if the teacher is not present or injured)?


Remember, God is always there even if it takes us some time to find you. Is there anything we should tell or ask your teacher about drills? Let’s pray together now.”




What more could the parents be doing on both sides of tragedies like this?


This question is worded in an interesting way, as the answers, in my view, are nearly identical. By “both sides,” I am guessing the reader is asking about students who are troubled (and this more likely to become violent) and those children that would be the victims.


The short answer to both: parent. It is a verb.


I can appreciate that parenting is an exhausting effort. I was essentially raised in a single parent home for some time, so I can empathize. I don’t mean to be trite, or that you aren’t already doing your best as a parent. I hope my insights as an educator will encourage and give you a fresh look at your situation.


Some parents mistakenly pour effort, time, and expense into less-than priorities. What we emphasize to our children makes a huge difference in their understanding of the world and ability to thrive.


Being intentional as a parent is less about gadgets, stylishness, and keeping up with the Joneses and more about presence; transmitting values to the next generation.


Not knocking sports at all with this analogy, simply making a point: what does it say to a child when a parent comes to their soccer game, but does not come to the parent teacher conference, or worse: does not know the teachers’ names?


What good is it to take your child to an expensive and fun activity if you do not know who their friends are, and what goes on in their homes and lives of their peers?


You might have high expectations for your child’s report card, but do you know what is burdening their heart each night that they cry themselves to sleep?


Does your son and daughter spend more time with you over a meal or reading a book, with relatives, other adult mentors, and at church– or playing Call of Duty? I am not saying no to video games entirely. I am saying no to emotional disengagement.


True, some children, especially teens, are going to resist a parents’ attempt to be closer. That does not mean you should not consistently extend it. When they are ready to talk, they will –but only if they feel welcomed, cherished, and desired. In the words of my Pastor, be “consistently consistent.” If you begin these rituals at a young age, an adolescent is less likely to resist them.


Conversely, children who are boundaryless will jump off an emotional cliff into a moral freefall.


So what is a concerned adult citizen to do beyond the borders of their own families?


Enter: The Re-Parent.


There are many emotionally homeless children in our society.


I am not talking about orphans or foster care only, although that is a whole other blog. I am talking about young people (especially adolescents) who don’t have a healthy connection with a stable adult. This happened frequently in my middle school classroom in a well-off neighborhood. The students had nearly anything they wanted materially–but they did not have their parents’ hearts and attention.


I cannot tell you where I would have been without mentors, pastors, and extended family in my life. Though they were not directly responsible for me, they played a huge role in my moral and social development. I went to them when I needed added reassurance and support.


Many kids in your child’s classroom do not have a safe place to go when school gets out. You and your children can be that friendly face down the street or at the bus stop. TWill this help to prevent the next troubled teen? Maybe. Small kindnesses go a long way. Children are ALWAYS listening to us and seeking a place to belong.


Tossing a football, sharing a snack, an invitation to a party, a ride to campus or youth group and friendly, genuinely interested conversations: these community efforts add up over time in the life of a traumatized youngster. I remember one of my own relatives single-handedly prevented a campus attack as the only friend of the young man who had drafted a “hit list.” Intervention happened just in time.


Your child does not need to feel the entire weight of protecting themselves against classmates who are dangerous, but you can train them to be kind and not add to the angst of the other student. They may not want a kid to come to their birthday party, and that may not be wise in some ways. But If they can merely smile and say hello to the unincluded students in the hallway, it could go a very long way to preventing a disaster. Human care is in short supply everywhere.


By the way, I had an experience with a middle school boy, 6-foot tall, who I restrained after he sucker punched another innocent classmate and kneed him in the groin. The aggressor ended up in a mental health facility, I am told. Your kid doesn't need to engage another child who is mean or unsafe. But as the parent, YOU need to know the names of kids on campus who are displaying warning signs of violence. Train your child to know what these are, and allow them emotional safety to share with you on the regular anything they are worried about.


Adolescents may not want you to make a big deal out of a peer, but it is better for you to know the atmosphere is tense than to be ignorant. Use discretion when communicating with the school about what your child tells you, but follow your gut instincts as a parent. In some cases, going straight to law enforcement allows you and your family to provide anonymous tips which could prevent a problem. Your child’s teacher can’t be everywhere at once, but you can talk to your child daily and find out if something is amiss.





How do you feel about teachers having guns and training to defend? Thoughts on why the sudden expectation of teachers is to be soldiers.


There was a time in my life that I was very wary of guns, as a female around small children. I felt this way for much of my growing up years and well into adulthood. Certainly, guns are controversial for a reason. Considerable arguments can be made on either side of this debate.


I did not go into education to participate in gun training or handling. That is not something I ever envisioned for myself. The reality of education is that there are MANY things that teacher college does not train or prepare you to do. The brass-tacks setting of a classroom, especially in a public school, is an emotional and mental jungle. Ask your teacher friend if they know what a “hold” is, and I will bet you $100 they have been or will be trained to perform these soon.


I suppose other industries feel the same way. Pilots, shopkeepers, and hospital staff do not expressly expect to deal with on-sight violence in their chosen profession. We are all projecting our ideals for a new career onto an unknown day-to-day grind.


I worked as a bank teller in college. There is a money clip inside the cash drawer of each transaction window, separating metal tongs that set off the alarm system. The tongs are separated by a single $20 bill. If an armed robber demands all the money in the cash drawer, the teller simply pulls the alarm-activating bill out with the other cash that they then hand over to the gunman, silently alerting the police.


We have nothing like this in schools.


Save the fire alarm, there is no quick way to call for help in the average classroom. Certainly, it is not concealed–there is no barrier to hide behind. Setting off a fire alarm (which may be across the room from the teacher) evacuates the entire campus - and would probably set an intruder into fight mode.


As teachers, we are not handing over valuable pieces of paper money to a criminal as a bank employee. In a classroom, we are handing over our most precious resources and valuable assets: our kids.


So how do I feel about the prospect of managing a firearm as a teacher? I don’t love it. How do I feel being absolutely defenseless while responsible for 30+ other lives? Pretty darn lousy: fearful, angry, devalued. Panicked.


The need to defend ourselves as teachers is not the 2nd Amendment advocacy groups expecting us to be, “soldiers,” as one blog reader asked. The need to defend ourselves from others who intend harm is part of living in a morally bankrupt society. We can debate on why that is: the breakdown of the family, mental health disorders, violent media and video games, or as the Christian faith would explain - the sinful and fallen nature of humankind. I tend to think that the root cause is a mixture of all of the above.


What will we do about the drastically dangerous realities of those who attempt to harm us, or worse, our children in classrooms?


I would rather have the option to protect myself and others than to feel completely helpless.


No one seems to complain about the battered woman calling 911 for an armed police officer to come to her aid. I doubt even the anti-gun crowd would deny this same woman (and her innocent bystanding children) the defense of a next door neighbor who might act as an armed Good Samaritan.


What is the alternative? Having her beaten to death because no one can get there fast enough - or they are not equipped to help? Evil seems to be multiplying more quickly than heroic protectors.


I recall visiting a friend here in Arizona with a gated entry. When I accidentally left the gate open upon reaching her doorstep, the man next door came to check if my friend was okay. What a charming gesture! I was not surprised to find out this man was from a culture that tends towards chivalrous customs.


Now, in your mind’s eye, replace that battered woman with your favorite local elementary school teacher. Do you want him or her to be able to protect themselves? The students?


I thought so. In their shoes, how would you feel? What is your gut reaction?


Some may advocate a lesser weapon, metal detectors, and resource officers as sufficient to provide protection. In some cases, sure. In most cases–it does not seem to be enough. Otherwise, I would not need to write this blog.


Pepper spray was something I carried with me all the time as a university student. It annoyingly jammed and sputtered when I tried to test it out once. I worried I could not unlatch it fast enough in the dark parking lot. All weapons have liabilities. In countries where guns are illegal, criminals still find ways to harm others: knives, pipe bombs, and molotov cocktails to name a few. Guns may ironically be less dangerous, in that they can be directed to the intruder from a distance without affecting the environment of surrounding victims.


My physician friend from Indonesia, who I suggested should move his practice to America, eyed me fearfully and said, “...but America is so dangerous! Guns!!”


In the same trip, our car was inspected for pipe bombs before we could park for the Sunday church service. This procedure has become a necessary part of the culture in Indonesia. Bottom line: malevolent people will be destructive no matter what legislation exists. What we must consider is how to more effectively and efficiently deal with the havoc and reduce it.


According to the Crime Prevention Research Center, over 90% of mass shootings occur in ‘gun-free zones,’ as the perpetrators know legally armed citizens won’t be there to stop them.


How do you feel about having a lock on your front door? Security cameras in your driveway? Pepper spray in your purse? For me: better than before. I would rather have the training to use a gun and not need it than need it and not have it.


Have you read anything about how Israel keeps their schools safe?


No, I am not familiar with how Israel does this. Feel free to share any hyperlinks from credible sources and I will add them to this posting.




I would like to hear, from a Christian teacher's perspective, if there is any relevance to the fact that God has not been welcome in class for a long time.


100%.


I realize that some of my reader’s do not profess any type of faith. However, most of them also know that I am unapologetically in love with Jesus Christ and follow Him sincerely. So that is the perspective by which I will answer this question.


I also want to answer this question from the vantage point of someone who has worked in Communist countries for several years. There are no guns among the citizens there. At first, walking down the street…this made me feel safer as an unaccompanied woman. I didn’t have as much inclination to watch over my shoulder as I walked the crowded city streets.


However, I argue that gunless societies are actually more dangerous.


My American female friend was raped twice by a taxi driver in a large Asian city where guns are disallowed to the public. Other examples: peaceful protesters and political dissedents have been plowed down, arrested without due process, tortured with electric batons and tiger chairs in hidden prisons, disappeared, had their families blackmailed and harrassed, and even had their live organs harvested for profit.


It is illegal or extremely difficult to own guns in these countries. Why? Defenseless people are much easier to suppress and control. The Founders of the United States knew this propensity, well before the Communism sweep of the 20th century.


If you disagree with me or think I am being dramatic, please find an immigrant from one of these countries and ask why they came to America. They will certainly have an opinion on the gun issue.


Back to the question about removal of God from public classrooms:


My understanding is that the Ten Commandments, daily prayer, and the Pledge of Allegiance were all part of the American classroom until 1962. That was 60 years ago. 3 generations. Long enough to remove these particular moral compasses from the collective consciousness. I guess if someone ignored me for 60 years, I might not come around much. I believe God is no different. We inhabit where we are welcomed. We avoid where we are rejected.


I do remember the pledge growing up and a Moment of Silence. In the last 10 year or so, these too seem to have fallen out of favor with administrators and some students. The more demands there are to prevent offending people with an ethic or philosophy they may not share, the more anxious and irritable our children have become. At least that is how it looks from where I stand in front of a chalkboard.


Even if you are not a religious person - or hold to a different faith system than I do, the juxtaposition of schools then and now is worth examining. Of course, good changes, including the Civil Rights movement and racial integration of the school system also happened around this time. I support that wholeheartedly. I also believe in non-violent and peaceful resistance, reason and debate, and boycotts - as modeled by the beloved Martin Luther King, Jr.


It might have been good if he had been able to defend himself from his assassination. I don’t know if he was armed, or if he would have chosen that. Yet, even the slavery that gave rise to our American Civil War decries the need for oppressed people to have the means to protect themselves against those without a conscience.


Many people do not want guns on campus. I empathize. The way I see it, we can have God in school– or guns. Take out both and you won’t have a school for very long. Where will this fish-in-a-barrel casualty trend go in 60 more years?!


My ideal scenario:


- presence of several trained arms carriers on staff

-collective yet voluntary inclusion of "God" and moral absolutes on campus


If a teacher doesn’t feel comfortable carrying, of course that is their call to make. Many of us can do so with some wise precaution. Just the possibility of staff members posessing a gun may deter so much would-be attachs that they never have to use it anyway.


It is up to voters.


By the way, I am attending a course to obtain my conceal and carry permit. Tomorrow.






Postscript


I went to my first Concealed Carry Safety training class last Saturday. Over 100 local citizens from diverse walks of life (age, color, language, etc.) were represented. About 40% of the attendees were women.


The presenters included an insurance agent, a former police officer turned lawyer, and the very intimidating but hilarious gun handling trainer with a plethora of other self-defense objects to present.


All three presenters emphasized the importance of weighing carefully the decision to carry a gun. They also said not to carry unless committed to using it properly. This requires ongoing marksmanship training. It also recommends insurance to cover litigation expenses that would automatically be incurred by even an innocent, justified user.


The presentations were very sobering and I am still deliberating on what my next move will be. More education and training is a must. It is an expensive choice to carry, not just financially, but emotionally, socially, and psychologically. Those citizens who have chosen to embrace this responsibility legally and safely are making a deliberate decision to put the quality of their lives at risk to protect.


No matter where you are in the spectrum of the gun argument, I recommend taking a class about this to educate yourself and think more critically about the issue.