Picture this: a man in Fredericton, NB, Canada, carries an umbrella in an umbrella carrying case with a handle. Someone thinks he’s got a giant gun and calls the police. The man is walking to work, and his path nears a local high school. Police call the school, along with three nearby high schools, and they all shut down. No one is allowed in or out.
The photos of the man with the “gun” are circulated on the news. The man identifies himself in the pixelated shots, and calls the police. Once it’s all sorted out, the police realize that it is not a dangerous teenager with an automatic weapon; it is a 25-year-old man with an umbrella on a rainy day. Oops.
By now the schools have been on lockdown for over two hours. Zero teachers have been teaching and zero students have been learning. Late students are turned away from the high schools, and are terrified for their friends stuck inside the school. Students locked in their classrooms fear the worst: an armed gunman is roaming up and down the halls. They crouch under desks and stand against the walls. Because of a man walking to work in the rain carrying an umbrella.
Near-paranoid fear of a school shooting has seeped from the U.S. into Canada. and has made hundreds of kids miss a morning of education, lined up in fear against a classroom wall.
Yes, the umbrella case looks unusual. Pixelated photos are always scary too. Everyone involved was just trying to do his or her job. Had it been a gun rather than an unbrella, and had the 25-year-old man been a disenfranchised teenager with an AK, and had he been targetting the school rather than walking to work, the precautions may have been warranted. Had he killed one or more students, that pixelated photo would have gone viral, and people would be asking why more wasn’t done.
But how many more men with umbrellas will cause high schools to shut down? How much more psychological damage are we willing to inflict on our teachers and children in the name of safety? How many more silly politicians will offer up short-sighted suggestions for school safety reform?
I don’t know what the answer is. I don’t know what should have been done at these high schools instead of two-hour-long lockdowns. All I can think is, I wish no one had seen this man walking to work in the rain with an umbrella in his hand.