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Schools are not Battlefields

written by Colleen Tirtirian February 14, 2020
Schools are not Battlefields

When children go to school, they should not have to worry about certain things. Being shot is one of those; yet, this is the reality for children in America. School should not be a battlefield. Now that my twins are nearly school age, I recently wrote a letter to them about my wishes for them as they enter that transition.

To My Children,

In a few years, you will be in Kindergarten; I worry about this transition not only for the usual reasons that parents worry about sending their children to school — long days away from home, social changes, growing up — but because you will start to partake in lockdown drills.

You are too young to understand the implications of these drills, but I know them all too well.

Years before you were born, I worked as a middle school public educator for special needs students. During that time, the Sandy Hook mass shooting occurred, taking the lives of twenty first-graders and six educators. I was in my classroom on lunch break when I opened my computer to the news. Our hearts broke in a new way when we read the news that afternoon. To this day, my heart aches for those innocent children and for the parents and families who’ve had to endure such immense loss.

In the coming weeks at school, we set new protocols in place for dealing with active shooters. ‘Active shooter drills’ or ‘lockdowns’ is what we called them. We taught our students new ways of trying to stay safe should one of these horrific events occur in our school: They were taught to barricade doors with furniture; told to remain as quiet as possible; told to huddle together in one corner of the room. My students were scared. And as their teacher, I reassured them — though I knew that these drills did nothing to prevent violence.

Staff also recieved fobs that would call the police if we saw someone in our halls with a gun pointed. One afternoon, a teacher accidentally pressed the call button and we were placed in lockdown mode.

I remember the looks on my students’ faces as we later discussed the fears they felt in that moment; not knowing if they would go home that day.

We thought that after such a horrendous event at Sandy Hook, that common-sense gun laws would be enacted. How could we, as a society, allow this to ever conceivably happen again? But that is exactly what we did. It kept happening at other schools, over and over, traumatizing not only the families impacted by gun violence, but creating a nation of students who have to live with this reality every day that they walk through the school doors.

Politicians have failed you. And for that, I am deeply sorry.

We have some time before you are in school full time, and so, I am making a promise to you now. I vow to continue the fight against gun violence; to do what I can to make sure that you can go to school and feel safe.

The time is now to do what I can to support the creation of a safe environment for you to learn in peace instead of constantly worrying if today will be the ‘fight or flight’ response day.

You do not need to live a life where burying your classmates is a reality.

Those of us who are part of the campaign to end senseless gun violence cannot stop every tragic event from occurring, but enacting common-sense gun laws will do a lot to keep you safer than the current state of affairs.

I am getting involved because I envision a future for you where you can go to school without fear. Where the classroom is not a battlefield.

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