Facing the Fear of School Violence With Kids

*as of 10:45 am, the subject of the man hunt has been found dead. 😦

Twenty years ago, I was in college when the Columbine High School shootings happened. I can still see it today. Sitting in my boyfriend’s apartment at the University of Iowa, I watched the students evacuating the school, hands on their heads. It was scary and surreal all at once. I’d never seen anything like it and assumed I wouldn’t again.

As I’ve gotten older, what I thought was a one-time incident has become a new norm. Children as young as preschool practicing lockdown and lockout drills, learning what to do if there was a perceived threat at their school.

Today, this phenomenon has hit my own hometown, Denver. I’m typing this as all school districts in the Denver metro area are closed. They’re canceled today due to an armed and dangerous woman with an obsession with Columbine making credible threats in the area. She came to Colorado from Florida, bought a gun and is thought to be headed for a school in the area. In today’s society any hint of school violence is taken seriously and so we are at home while I ponder how to handle this with my littles.

My sons are two and four. Today, my older son’s preschool is closed, and the younger’s home daycare is on lockout. They’re young- too young for this fear and ugliness. My oldest is young enough to still have faith that people are inherently good, but old enough to know that it’s not normal to be home on a random Wednesday. His school practices drills with enough information to instruct the children on how to stay safe in a dangerous situation, but not enough to scare them. They learn where to go and what to do if there is a threat, but they don’t really know why. It’s up to us as parents to share that part as we choose.

I want to tell him that he is safe in school. But I’m not sure I can.

So today, I choose to share just enough with my son. Enough that he knows that there are some bad people out there, but that his teachers are good. That if there is danger they will protect him. That he is safe at school. That today, there is someone bad who wants to do something bad to a school and so he gets to stay home with me. And then I will hug him extra tight, tell him how much I love him and pray that his woman is found before she executes her plans.

This is how I choose to handle it because really, I don’t know how. I don’t understand how the world got to this place. I choose to handle it this way because he is four. He is too young for this.

*If you’re looking for information on how to talk to your children about violence this is a good article from the National Association of School Psychologists.

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