My son is 9. He told me he practices not crying during the drills because crying gives away your hiding spot.
The names we choose for each generation often speak to our nation’s history. After the war-winning Greatest Generation came the Baby Boomers. Then came Generations X and Y, famous for their education and use of technology. But the current generation of Centennials, Generation Z, bears a more ominous nickname: “The Lockdown Generation.”
It’s not a name that evokes hope or feelings of pride. Instead, it carries a foreboding and depressing message: We have let these young people down. The blame is on adults for not protecting them and for allowing the trauma of active shooter drills to color their life experience.
As school has resumed these past few weeks, I’ve watched my Twitter feed fill up with examples of how lockdown training and active shooter drills affect young people’s lives.
My 5 yo shut the 2 yo in the closet with him and whispered, “D, it’s a lockdown drill. Be very quiet and squeeze close together!” He’s been in Kindergarten all of 3 weeks.
Even though mass shootings make up less than one percent of gun-violence incidents on K-12 campuses, our children are overwhelmed by frequent and traumatic drills and training.
Some people have pushed to harden schools or arm teachers, with no real evidence or research to support that this approach in fact improves the safety of schoolchildren. In an age when data drives education, why aren’t educators letting data drive the planning behind such emotionally wrenching drills?
My son came home believing a shooting was likely at his school. Stats say it’s not. We’re scaring them because adults are the cowards and won’t make the changes that are necessary.
– Voting Mom
Unfortunately, data is not driving this. We are causing damage to developing brains without knowing the long-term effects. And what are the chances that it will do any good? Children are more likely to be involved in a car accident on the way to school than in a school shooting, so why aren’t we making them do car accident drills?
Follow the money.
My son was 9 when I found him Googling “how to stop yourself from sneezing.” He had been struggling with allergies, so I asked if he needed medicine. He said: “Oh no thanks. This is for school. When a shooter comes, it’ll be one sneeze and you’re dead.”
From bulletproof hoodies and backpacks to privately held active shooter training sessions, somebody has figured out how to make money off our fears and those of our children.
Entire markets are springing up to profit from these fears. The school safety industry is now valued at about $3 billion. It’s time to push back against this unethical use of fear to make money.
This AM my 9 year old asked if she should run or hide during an intruder drill if her class is outside: “If we’re in class we can’t run, but it’s ok cuz my teacher has things to pile in front of the door and she said i can hide under her desk.”
– Soccer Mom
What can you do to counteract this?
You can question school districts that implement active shooter training. You can find out when an active shooter training is scheduled and you can pull your kids out while it’s in progress. YOU ARE THE PARENT.
One day while driving in the car my daughter asked: “Mama, do we have to do lockdown drills in the car?”
Only you can decide what your children are exposed to. You already screen TV shows, music, movies and friends; you can also reduce your children’s exposure to needless trauma from lockdown or active shooter drills by advocating for them when drills are held.
Schools were the backdrop for gun violence long before Sandy Hook. But active shooter drills and bulletproof backpacks weren’t a thing until the violence crept into schools that could afford to pay for safety.
Nothing quite like tucking your child into bed as he tells you he’ll be the one to throw books at a stranger who comes into his classroom. He’s 6.
If we accept that our responsibility as a generation is to shape a world where our youth can thrive, then maybe it’s time we picked some new nicknames for older generations and left our children out of this.
The Lockdown Generation has been given a title they don’t deserve. It’s up to us to make sure it doesn’t stick.
Wendy Wheatcroft is a mom of three, educator and gun-violence prevention advocate working to end gun violence in all of its forms.