We think we're seeing the worst side effects of our national preoccupation with school shooters.
The problems with active shooter drills have already been widely documented. In the best of circumstances, active shooter drills are disturbing, even if they are focused just on the adults in the building. I've been through a drill with shooters using blanks; it's rough. But we've ben seeing stories about drills that went wildly over the top-- execution-style shootings with pellet guns, and drills that are treated as an actual real event.
a guide for helping students cope, while a steady stream of articles catalog the fears such drills awaken and the reasons active shooter drills should be stopped.
But from Florida comes news that hints at the next level of trouble sparked by drills and news coverage and the business of building fear into our children:
A ten-year-old girl is facing charges after she brought a steak knife to her elementary school in Florida, according to authorities.
According to the Monroe County Sheriff's Office, the girl said she brought the knife to Stanley Switlik Elementary School so she could protect herself if an armed attacker entered the school.
Most of the controversy surrounding these events centers on the district attorney's bizarre decision to level criminal charges against this girl (and the school's bizarre decision not to have her back). And that's all pretty awful, but that's not where I want to focus.
A student thought she needed to bring a weapon to school to protect herself from any scary attacker.
It's not a surprise this happened in Florida. In the "Florida man" state, students are subjected not just to the active shooter drills, but have hard all the discussion surrounding putting armed guards in schools, of arming teachers in their schools. Many of them have heard the insistence that the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.
It should have been obvious. Why would a student not conclude that she needed to take a weapon to school?
This time it was a ten year old with a steak knife. Eventually it will be a sixteen year old with a hand gun. In the worst case scenario, that sixteen year old won't be arrested and charged for acting out of fear-- he'll be shot by some security guard, or, God help him, an armed teacher. Someone who, in a split-second moment of terror will think that student is a threat. And that's just one scenario-- I can't even begin to imagine all the different way things can take a turn for the worse when a frightened student brings a weapon to school.
But I believe it will happen again. We are building a toxic atmosphere of fear, fed by the foolish notion that the only solution for fearful things is even more fearful things. We are busy convincing students that they are in mortal peril and that only weapons can save them. Maybe there's a guard or a teacher or a cop on the way, but how could some students not conclude that the best way to have the most immediate protection is to have a weapon of their own. And there's no way that ends well.