No doubt about it, this decade will go down in history as one of the most violent decades in history for violence in American schools. You know the problem has grown to epidemic proportions when if asked about the latest school tragedy by a friend or co-worker, you have to ask “which one” they are referring too.
The most recent tragedy, which happened on April 9th, 2014, involved a troubled 16 year old teen in Murrysville, Pennsylvania, who went on a stabbing rampage at the local high school, wounding 21 students and 1 Adult. Four of these injuries were deemed “serious” by Doctors. Thankfully, there were no fatalities. Read that story HERE.
As with any heinous crime, people’s first reaction is to always ask WHY this happened, what were this troubled young man’s motives in committing such a senseless and brutal crime? It again appears, though not proven as of yet by Investigators, that the young perpetrator was a victim of a recurring and tragic theme common to violent school crime: Bullying. Despite the fairly recent national campaigns against school bullying, including several million dollar plus PSA’s (Public Service Announcements) along with some well made movie’s like Bully (2011), The Fat Boy Chronicles (2010) and Cyberbully (2011),all of which strive to send a very strong Anti-Bullying message, the problem still persist in our schools.
As a parent first and a CO second, I take this issue very seriously, as I am sure a lot of my fellow CO parents do. But to answer the question of how do we, as responsible CO’s prepare and protect our children from this problem, I think we as parents need to take more personal ownership of our kid’s safety rather than depending on other’s, such as educators and law enforcement to do it for us.
First and foremost, the issue of bullying, like illegal drug abuse, is something you cannot control completely except in your own household. Despite the best efforts of the federal government, educators and law enforcement, bullying continues in our schools; Why? Because kids will continue being kids, good or bad, bullying happens. All we can do as responsible parents is educate our kids on the possible, violent repercussions of bullying and urge them to report bullying behavior when they see or read it online. On that note, it is important that school administrators and parents monitor social media pages of students. Often ISD’s have very strict guidelines as far as what they expect with online behavior of their students, so it is important parents see that these guidelines are met daily.
Second, find out what particular safety procedures your child’s school have in place for an active shooter/dangerous person. Are these procedures updated and drilled on regularly? Does your child know specifically what to do in the event of an alarm? It is noteworthy that in this last incident in Murrysville, the early pulling of a fire alarm by a student allowed a very large portion of the students to get out of the danger zone unharmed. Because of this, I tell my kids that if they are in a position to sound an alarm or even pull the fire alarm during one of these incidents, by all means do it! Any kind of early alarm or early notification in these types of incidents gives teachers/administrators those extra few minutes to react to the threat and/or get the kids to safety.
Third, and I have talked about this INCESSANTLY on this blog: go over “What if” scenarios with your kids. “What if an announcement came over the PA about an active shooter at school and you were in the bathroom”? You don’t have to make these incidents scary, but at the same time don’t make them a joke either. Try to instill in your kids it is better to “think on your feet” than be a “sheep” waiting on the next command, in other words, always think for yourself. I always tell my kids that sheep have two speeds: Grazing and Stampede, and that most people in a stressful, survival situation will fall into the 2nd category, stampede, because for the majority of their lives they have been in the first category, grazing, or to put it bluntly: ambivalent to the threats and dangers around them.
Fourth, and this is going to depend heavily on the age and maturity level of your child, go over basic self-defense and first aid. As a parent, I had to come to the hard reality some time ago, I cannot realistically protect my kid’s 24/7. I can do my best to prepare and train them, but even then, it is a fine line of how far I take it. We as parents have to remember to not only not to try to live our lives through our kids, but also to never put OUR FEARS into our kids. So bottom line, always strive to make the foundation of your kid’s training about being PREPARED NOT PARANOID.
In working up a training curriculum for my kids, I took some pointers from adult training classes from the past and used them to guide the training.
You don’t want to train your kids in any other skills besides self-defense, period. Put aside more advanced tactical discussions and concentrate on simple survival. This is a big reason I keep my kids out of martial arts that by design are more “stylistic” and are designed more for competition (point driven) rather than the reality of self-defense on the street.
I heard on a news report after the stabbings happened in Pennsylvania, that one student had survived solely because one of his classmates applied pressure to the wound until first responder’s arrived. This is an example of a logical skill to teach your kids. Keep it simple and don’t over-complicate your instruction, whether you are talking to kids or adults, the more intricate and complicated a skill becomes, the more likelihood it will fall apart under stress.
Don’t teach your kids pressure point manipulations or ranger choke hold’s unless you know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, they would use it to themselves and not as a “Hey you guys wanna see something cool”? kind of deal.. This goes back directly to the maturity level of the child. It also goes back to how much you teach your kids about the “warrior culture” and the “warrior ethos”; showing kids examples through history about how the greatest warriors practiced restraint, discretion and humility more than they practiced breaking noses for fun.
I am going to state the obvious here; You will never be able to completely prepare your child for every eventuality, just as SERE school never completely prepares soldiers for every eventuality when captured. I have heard some parents say since the stabbings “I am going to enroll my kid in a knife disarm class…” Really? You want to go there huh? This type of mentality is counter-productive and FAILS all three of the above criteria. Weapon disarming, whether it be knife or gun, is a dangerous and precarious subject for even highly trained professionals, Much less kids!
Simply put, The goal here is to keep your kids alive, not get them in deeper trouble. This is not to say that fighting back is not an option to keep on the table, but only in the event that the attacker is keeping (or blocking) them from fleeing the scene. How they fight back is going to be “SITUATIONALLY DEPENDENT” , mainly, in how the attacker is armed. Therefore, their training must be RELEVANT to WHERE they are. What do they have available? Pencils and pens make good stabbing weapons; aim for the eyes, throat and heart. What can they use as a shield? Textbooks are thick and can also be wielded as a club if need be. Chairs also make excellent “fending” tools (think of a lion tamer). These are just a few example of some of the more “improvised” and practical items to drill on
In closing, as a Parent, you can never claim to have all the answers, but you can always say you never gave up and always gave it your best shot!
Stay Alert, Stay Armed and Keep your kids close (as you can) and Stay Dangerous!