Across the country this month, children are being led into classrooms and starting their first days of school. Some, having never set foot on a school’s campus will have many first impressions. Some will cry, some will be eager to run off and make friends. They will explore and experience a new world in many ways and have their eyes opened and minds tapped. The reality is, while they will learn many things in school, they will also be made aware of and learn how to handle mass shootings — active shooter drills will be among their first impressions.
At some point, a child will come home from school, and when they are asked what they learned at school today, they will respond, “We learned to run, hide, or fight if there is a shooter at school. We learned to be quiet and turn the lights off and huddle in the corner of the room away from the door and windows. We learned that if necessary, our teachers and staff will lay down their lives for us if someone comes into our school with a gun and tries to hurt people.”
As a country that prides itself on being the best and most prosperous, our children deserve better — we all deserve better. But at the very least, schools should be oases that are immune to violence. They should protect the innocence and creativity of children. And they should honor the labor and sacrifice of educators without asking them to make the ultimate sacrifice of protecting children from gun violence with their lives.
I thought we were better than this, but this seems like the new normal we are being asked to settle into. The fact that a mass shooting can happen anywhere at any time and there are no solutions we can offer besides thoughts and prayers cannot be the reality we accept. So many are afraid to infringe upon someone’s right to bear arms but the right to bear arms was not named among those inalienable rights. While our the US Senate fails to act on gun violence to keep from infringing on people’s gun rights, guns are infringing upon all of our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Our children deserve to live in a world where, when asked what they learned at school today, they can respond with, “Today we learned that the world is at our fingertips and there is nothing we can’t do if we work hard. We learned that we are strong and capable and we can solve difficult problems and complete tough tasks. We learned that we are safe at school and the educators there care and want the very best for us.” We need to hold leadership accountable in every way possible to make this or norm.