Here I am, working with my juniors as they begin the process of writing an editorial about a subject important to them. I tell them they are experts in so many ways; they know exactly where drug influences come from, why students involve themselves in gangs, and why so many are so unhappy at home. These are my students' stories and experiences; they could teach adults so much! As I give them time to brainstorm, I'm online, reading CNN. Teachers have to grab news when they can, and I am no exception.
Today is Oct. 22. I see the headline, "Beloved Teacher Killed by 'Nice Kid,'" and my stomach simply sinks through my chair. All I can think is, "Please God. Not again. Not another lost kid killing because he feels he has no other choice. Not another teacher dead trying to protect his students. Please. Not again."
I know I would have tried very hard to talk this kid down, just like Mike Landsberry did. I would have placed myself in front of that gun, hoping the kid would see reason when he saw an adult actually care about him -- even though the rationalist in me knows this kind of intervention rarely results in anything other than getting shot. I understand that there is no reasoning with an individual bent on killing -- no matter what age -- and that means there must be another solution. I love my students; but, I am also a mother to two children, a wife, a daughter, a sister ... How am I to protect my students and myself at the same time? Where is my training for this form of active shooter altercation?
When I was a freshman in high school in the 1980s, my P.E. class learned basic self-defense for nearly four weeks, and we practiced what we learned extensively. Yet, where is my students' self-defense training?
Here's the brutal reality that we all face: Your children, and all of their teachers and school staff, are sitting ducks for students gone homicidally insane. Without proper self-defense training, these killings will continue and escalate, creating tragedy over and over in our schools. We who work in education need help. We need experts to come in and train our staffs in methods of protection in extreme cases. Luckily for us, these experts exist. A simple Google search reveals many private companies -- among them Defensive Tactics Solutions, Archangel Protectors, ACT CertTM (Attack Countermeasures Training) -- that are actively instructing educators and students in tactical self-defense.
I strongly suspect that self-defense and tactical awareness training for educators is an option most parents and educators have never considered. I wonder: Why have we not considered this option? Why are educators not better trained in defending themselves and others in the event of an active, violent threat on their campus? What, exactly, are we hiding from when we ignore this vital information?
Of course there are detractors -- individuals who believe training will encourage others to put themselves in harm's way. Of course there are people that would argue that the cost of such training would be astronomical. I wonder: How many more children must die before we remove our heads from the sand and protect our kids against active shooters in our schools? If the parents will not adequately monitor their kids nor acknowledge when their child may be a danger to himself or others; if educators must continue to be on the front lines of this horrific form of violence, then give all of us the tools to protect ourselves -- and your children -- from the "nice kid" turned monster that we can't see until it's too late.
Karen E. Davis-Ernst of Bakersfield is an 11th grade English teacher and CAHSEE tutor at Highland High School.