Stacy, a high-school math teacher in Maryland who has young children of her own (and who was granted partial anonymity to protect her kids’ identity and to avoid any conflict between her and her school district), told me she began experiencing a more acute, visceral concern for campus safety when her school district adopted a new protocol that in certain emergency situations instructs prospective victims to flee the scene as quickly as possible if they have the chance to do so safely. For teachers of young children who may not be able to respond swiftly or strategically, that may require them to prioritize their own escape over staying in the classroom to protect their students.
Stacy says the stakes of safety procedures such as this one became especially apparent to her when her oldest child, now 6 years old, started attending school on another campus in her district; she gets overwhelmed just thinking about what would happen if an incident were to happen on that campus under the new protocol. Stacy wouldn’t be able to “protect [her] babies.”
Parents are hardly the only people to feel helpless, of course; this sense of vulnerability has become all but pervasive in the United States. It’s a reality Linda Cavazos knows all too well, as one of the volunteers who provided rapid-response mental-health services to victims of the 2017 Las Vegas massacre, in which 58 people died and more than 400 were wounded. Arriving at the scene early on the morning after the shooting, Cavazos was tasked with supporting survivors and the family members of those murdered as coroners sought to identify fatalities, sometimes using little more than the tattoos on their bodies. The shootings last weekend left Cavazos feeling entirely unnerved. She recalled the confusion she experienced upon seeing the first push notifications on Sunday regarding the Ohio news, initially conflating the updates with those alerting her of Saturday’s El Paso incident.
This confusion only magnified her pain. After all, Cavazos had gone through a similar thought process just a few days earlier, after the shooting that took four lives and wounded 13 others at a garlic festival in California, and the other shooting that same day in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, where a gunman shot eight people, six of whom died. She worries that she’ll only grow more overwhelmed as the tally grows. And like so many others, she’s scared of how much more pain that growing tally will inevitably cause for students across the country.
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