After every school shooting, we do our lip-service assessment of gun control, school safety, and what freedom truly means. The NRA argues that if the “good guys” had more guns, fewer people would have died. Democrats craft a gun control bill which gets immediately shot down by the gun-toting freedom-lovers. Pundits ask the same questions. Republicans send their prayers to the victims’ families. We mourn. We rage. We move on. Until the next one.
We must not let that happen. We must keep the dialogue going. And one important voice that has been historically neglected has been the teachers who must enforce draconian measures in the name of safety.
What is it like for a teacher during a school lockdown? What does a lockdown entail? What effect does a lockdown have on our teachers’ and children’s psyches?
As a teacher, I have been taught how to participate in a lockdown. You hear the announcement, quickly look into the hall to see if there are any students and bring them in. You lock the door. You get down. You pull the blinds down. You stay away from the door and out of sight from the windows. Be silent.
Once you have locked your door, do not open it for anyone. You do not open the door even for a student, as the gunman could be pointing a gun to the student’s back. No, not even a fellow teacher or admin, for the same reason. You do not open the door regardless of what they say. Then, you wait.
Launa Hall, an Arlington, VA teacher remembers:
“In 13 minutes, according to my gruesome and involuntary mental calculus, a single gunman with his effortlessly obtained XM15-E2S rifle and 26 rounds in each of two additional magazines could potentially kill 78 of us. Even considering the time it takes to calmly reload.”
When the lockdown is over, the principal will manually unlock all the doors, usually accompanied by a police officer. They will open the door and congratulate everyone for doing a great job. Then, you return to teaching and learning.
But you’ve already learned a lot– you’ve learned about fear, about how the best thing to do in an emergency is to remain silent, about how we save the many at the expense of the few. You learn that this is normal and something that you should be prepared for.
“Instead of controlling guns and inconveniencing those who would use them, we are rounding up and silencing a generation of schoolchildren, and terrifying those who care for them. We are giving away precious time to teach and learn while we cower in fear.”
This is an essential narrative to include in our discussion on gun violence and gun control. We tend to think of the victims of gun violence as the ones who are injured or killed. But there are many, many more victims; kids and teachers cowering in the closet, trying to make sense of the utter terror they are feeling. Kids, whose jobs are to learn, grow, and explore, are huddled together, silently comforting one another, thinking of their parents, wondering if they will ever see them again. Teachers are taught to inflict this psychological torture on their students.
By that measure, the count of souls injured by gun violence is much, much higher than previously thought, and we must be mindful of the millions of children and teachers who experience this every year.