Lockdown drills, armed teachers, bulletproof backpacks, and now the proposal to teach kids how to triage one another—have lawmakers lost their minds?
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The Department of Homeland Security has offered $1.8 million to schools around the country who will train their teenage students how to stop their friends from bleeding out after they’ve been shot through by a machine gun.
This is our solution to the fact that shootings have become part of the school day around the country. First they put in metal detectors, then safety measures for parents and guardians picking up their kids, then they wanted to arm teachers, and lockdown drills became a monthly routine. Now we’re going to train children on how to save their classmates from death when an AR-15 somehow makes its way in anyway.
“School Age Trauma Training.” On its face, this is the most ridiculous solution to a problem I have ever heard. First, it’s too late. It reacts instead of prevents. Second, and arguably more importantly, it places the onus on our nation’s children. Why is it up to children to save their own lives when our government could easily save them with gun control legislation?
The National Rifle Association and its minions in Congress want to avoid any talk of gun regulation— especially immediately following a school shooting. They’d rather arm teachers, and equip students with bulletproof backpacks (while they’re scrambling for basic school supplies and books), teach our kids to run in zig-zags and play dead, perform monthly lockdown drills (taking up instruction time), and now Education Secretary Betsy DeVos wants to use federal funds to buy more guns, and we’re asking children to triage each other after they’ve been shot.
So often the talk around gun control includes the restrictive adjective, “sensible.” But there is no sense to any of this, and certainly no control. Rather than preventing school shootings, or working toward legislation that would restrict access to anyone, we have become a nation that stocks firearms like No. 2 pencils—instead of actually providing students with No. 2 pencils. Conservative politicians are in the pocket of gun-rights groups like the NRA, eager to normalize guns in places where they have never belonged. In schools? Guns in schools? What the heck is actually going on in this country right now?
We’ve wrapped ourselves into such logic pretzels that it somehow seems more rational to ask young people to take responsibility for the lives of their peers than to ask that semi-automatic weapons be banned.
Instead of getting rid of guns, the NRA’s hard line, and one that is being increasingly followed by Republicans, is to arm every single person in this country: teachers, children, neighbors, friends. Everyone should be packing. The argument is what? That the “good” guns will take out the “bad” guns? Why not just take out guns, period? Why are these hunks of metal that can destroy things more important to some people than the lives of children?
We can have our students learn how to make tourniquets and stop massive bleeding from the traumatic injuries caused by gunshots. We can teach them how to run away, jump fences, play dead. Or, maybe, we can enact laws that prohibit legal sale of semi-automatic weapons. That’s what our students are asking for. But maybe they just need more drills on how to throw textbooks at their assailants.
There is another kind of trauma this hard-boiled attempt to assuage parents and school administrators is overlooking: the trauma of being a survivor of a mass shooting. Children are not robots, they have emotions, they experience fear. They’re just like us, really, only even more vulnerable. Just take the testimony of Liz Stout, who shared her story of stopping the bleeding of wounded classmates after the Parkland school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas.
“There I was, a 17-year-old, standing in my classroom, staring at a blood-smeared floor with a lifeless girl on top of it.”
Stout lost one of her best friends to the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas on Valentine’s Day. The shooter hit Stout’s classroom that afternoon; she was sitting right near the door.
“We used lunchboxes to press into open wounds,” she said. “I called my mother, and told her there was a shooter, and she started screaming so I hung up. I was afraid I was breaking the silence.”
If she had known how to make a tourniquet, would it have helped her best friend? Maybe physically, but probably not. And she’d still be facing the post-traumatic stress that still plagues her life. In essence, we are not solving the problem with this training, we are simply moving our attention to a simpler problem. This training might stop some of the bleeding, but it doesn’t stop the pain. And what we really need to stop is the shooting.
After the shooting, Stout couldn’t eat, and collapsed on her kitchen floor a week later. Diagnosed with PTSD, Stout dropped out of school and finished her degree online rather than ever have to walk past the building where she almost died.
“Seventeen people lost their lives, but every single one of us lost our innocence that day,” Stout said. “A part of me is still stuck in that classroom.”
We need to aim higher than making other children save our children’s lives. What about the ones bleeding who do survive? What about the ones who stop the bleeding? What about their minds, their hearts, their ability to function in the day-to-day world? What about the fear, the anguish, that will follow them around for the rest of their lives? What about having to relive those moments? What if, God forbid, they try to save their friends’ lives and they fail? Why are we doing this to our kids?
We are an ailing nation when we would rather protect a piece of metal fashioned to kill than our own young—and not even “School Age Trauma Training” can help us. Clearly, this country has a problem, and instead of fixing it, we are asking our youth to learn how to put a Band-Aid on a bullet hole. Literally.
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