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Remember back in the day, when we were kids, and the safety drills we practiced each year in school? Classes lining up silently, walking in an orderly manner out of the school for a fire drill, or exiting the classroom because of the windows and taking cover up against the walls in the hallway during a tornado drill. Sometimes we would even practice an earthquake drill and climb underneath our desks for safety. These drills are still being practiced, however, because of the world around us, many schools have implemented one more “Active Shooter”.

Just the name of the drill is enough to catch the students’ attention and heighten their fear. Unfortunately, this drill is now a necessity.
Four years ago, about 70 percent of all public schools were drilling students on how to respond to a school shooting. Because of the increase in school shootings over the last couple of years, you can be sure that the number is even higher.

Gaining popularity is ALICE, an acronym for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate. If there is an active shooter, students and faculty are instructed to follow these steps. Sadly, children as young as six years old are becoming familiar with this procedure.

During an Active Shooter alert, teachers have to act quickly. Do they take their students to the nearest exit as fast as possible or lock the classroom door with everyone inside? They go from teaching long division to becoming the protector of hundreds and are left with making life-saving decisions in seconds. Faculty and students are also instructed to barricade the classroom door as quickly as possible by placing desks and chairs up against it, cover all windows and wait quietly. The anxiety and fear this is causing our young learners, and the added responsibility of our fellow teachers is incomprehensible.

Our classrooms are for learning, not for preparing for battle, yet here we are in the midst of what some would call a war.

What can we do as a society, as teachers and parents, to prevent these circumstances from happening, not only in our schools but outside in the world? What tools can we give to our children to teach them right from wrong, and how can we do a better job of recognizing and supporting the children that are struggling internally?

These are all questions that must be answered, and it is possible there is no one right answer. There definitely is no easy solution. One school of thought is to implement Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) programs for students when they are still in the primary grades.

SEL is the process in which children and adults learn and use the knowledge, attitudes, and skills that are necessary to understand and manage emotions. It helps the person set and achieve positive goals, develop empathy for others, make positive relationships with all, and taking responsibility for their decisions. Focusing on developing and improving social and emotional learning at an earlier age possibly can help children be more accepting of each other’s differences and thus preventing actions that can cause irrational decisions as they become older.

by Ryan Crawley

Ryan Crawley is an education and fitness guru currently making his home in Illinois. He always tries to look on the humorous side of things as he has spent years teaching, training, and writing.

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