Have you ever thought about how you would coach your child through a code red? I absolutely hate that I have not only thought about and discussed it with our kids but just recently had to put it in to practice too. While I’m all in for sharing tips and processes to help you better organized your world, this isn’t a “How-to” post with any kind of expertise applied. I have no idea if this is the answer to how to coach your child through a Code Red because I’m not a school safety or emergency expert. I’m the Mom next door, in carpool, at the ballfields, working and volunteering just like you and this is how what I so hope is our first and last Code Red went down.
Last month was the first time our family experienced this terror first hand and it was surreal. In a snapshot, a series of events throughout the day led to our son’s high school going into a Code Red Lockdown. In Wake County Public Schools, Code Red dictates students are moved into safe areas, all interior doors are locked, and teachers manage the situation as if there is a live threat within the building. Because the school has approved Tech Zones, places where you are allowed to be online such as the hallways, library, cafeterias, etc, that means that the kids can access Wifi in classrooms too. So during this Code Red I got a text from my son. And the conversation evolved something like this.
“Code Red its real Mom not a drill. I love you.”
“I love you too. I’m here. Take a breath you need to focus.
God is covering you in protection.
“Where are you in the building and who is the staff member with you?”
He gives me his location and the teacher’s name.
“That’s a good spot and you are in great hands.
Tell me what you do if somehow the armed person enters your room”
He texted about playing dead to avoid getting shot. Let that sink in. My teenager knows that he may have to do this to save his life.
“I love you. Tell me if you run from the building where on campus
will you run and where you will go once you leave campus.”
He answered with our previously agreed upon escape route. That we have discussed this before blows my mind now that we’ve had to actually confirm it in the midst of an event. It stems from 9/11 I’m sure ~ having a family agreed upon meeting place ~ but by the grace of God I never thought it would be necessary for my kids to need an escape route or meeting place in connection to school.
“I promise you I will be there. I love you. I’m on my way and won’t leave the meeting spot until I see you there or have notification that I can come to you on campus.”
In a Code Red, you can’t get into the building or even near it once the campus is covered in police. As soon as he said Code Red I was in the car and on my way.
“All clear. Glad that’s over. Love you Mom.”
And just as quickly as it happened it was over. Shortly after dismissal had completed, parents received timely and thorough phone updates letting us know the timeline of events, the perceived threat, and the actions taken to protect the school community. We also had Twitter updates from both the high school and police department. We couldn’t ask for more.
After a very detailed meeting with the police and staff, it was clear there was no remaining threat so our administration decided to allow the home football game schedule that night to proceed. That statement of certainty meant everything to the school community. There were more police on campus than I have ever seen in the almost six years our sons have attended this school. And we thanked each and everyone for being there not only that night but earlier that day. Its a zero tolerance policy that I am so glad they live by. Not only for my child but every single person in that building every day.
Every generation of parents believes that they are facing a world more sinister and dangerous than any before. Every generation has its defining historical moment as well. I fear that our generation’s defining historical moment is a societal shift of gun violence that thus far, has not been contained. I will not go into the politics and constitutional rights surrounding gun ownership, nor the gaping holes in our mental health system. But I can’t imagine a parent today who isn’t wondering at one point will this stop?
That God has blessed my husband and I with three children to raise in this time and place is an incredible honor, the most important job we’ll ever have. I have to work hard to believe that we can keep them safe, knowing that none of us knows what each day will bring and so we must live every single one with as much love and confidence as we can that good will surely overcome evil.
But we are raising our children in a time in our country where modern day gun violence has reached unprecedented levels and our sense of safety is being shattered at an alarming rate. This year alone there have been more shootings than days in the year. There are all kinds of opposing opinions about how the FBI defines a mass shooting ~ four or more people ~ versus how the various shooting data tracking sources compile them. Define it as you will. 355 of ANY shooting is too many for me. One life, four lives, 14 lives, 22 lives. They are all too many lives lost to guns increasingly purchased legally but meant to slaughter lives in a way that only seems applicable to a battlefield full of trained soldiers.
My fear is that society is becoming complacent, that we expect this kind of tragedy, that it’s just another shooting, like somehow that’s ever acceptable. And I am disheartened at how with each passing tragedy, another life experience that our children should never think twice about now takes on a lurking danger.
In 2012, the Aurora, Colorado shooting happened at a movie theater where people had come out to have a fun night watching a movie they couldn’t wait to see. I don’t want my children to be afraid to go to the movies with their friends. Our local theater now checks your bag when you come in. And yet I’m afraid to let them go without us now.
The Charleston, South Carolina shooting happened at a church in the midst of a Bible study. The shooter participated in the meeting before he opened fire. The last place I want my children to question their safety is in our church home.
The Roanoke, Virginia shooting was completely unexpected, enacted while two bright young people were simply doing their job reporting a local story. I want my children dream big about their careers, to take risks and do things they never imagined possible. I don’t want them to be afraid that being out in the world doing what they love might kill them.
The Oregon Community College shooting, like so many school shootings, occurred while eager students were working to improve their lives and make a future for themselves and their families. I don’ t want our kids to be afraid to go to college, either locally or out of town, meet new people, and learn how to navigate their world apart from us but still tethered.
After this shooting I learned that conceal carry on college campuses is entirely legal in many states. In all my research about safety on our oldest son’s college campus, how they handle lockdowns, how to stay in contact for updates, discussing with our son how to navigate a lockdown should it occur, I never once wondered if he could be sitting in class with someone carrying a weapon. Arguments abound on both sides of this fence, much of them stemming from how hard it is to secure a college campus, that they are no different than a small town main street of sorts, and therefore conceal carry is okay.
The San Bernadino, California shooting happened during a workplace holiday party where colleagues and friends had gathered to celebrate the season. That this shooting has also been classified as a terrorist attack opens an entirely new set of international concerns I can’t even begin to address. I don’t want my children to be afraid that if we attend a work function, during the day or at night, that our lives are at stake in a public place or where we work.
After our high school student experienced the Code Red outlined above, we talked at home with our middle schooler about safety procedures on her campus too. She said the fact that the doors are locked from the inside makes her feel safe in her classroom every single day. And she knows the security to even enter the building is like Fort Knox. But that moving forward she won’t have the freedom and creativity that a hallway full of classrooms with open doors can bring gives me great sadness. It’s something that I fear might even disappear from elementary schools and that I can’t imagine.
School is supposed to be a safe place, a community of learning and growth, friendship and love.
That I am writing this in December just a few days away from the anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting is heartbreaking. Instead of the life and legislation changing wake up call that our country demanded at that horrific, unexplainable, gut wrenching time, I am writing a post that includes just a handful of numerous shootings that have followed. I can’t imagine how infuriating that is for the Sandy Hook community who lost so much.
The lack of progress to protect lives, not further risk them, is unacceptable.
In the days that followed Sandy Hook, an organization was formed by some of the family members of children who were lost on that tragic day. It is called Sandy Hook Promise and is founded on this simple pledge:
“I promise to do all I can to protect children from gun violence by encouraging and supporting solutions that create safer, healthier homes, schools and communities.”
If we can’t take that pledge for our children and mean it then we truly are adrift in a violent sea.
They always say that you should never say never. But you should never have to coach your child through a Code Red. We shouldn’t have to talk about how to stay safe from a bad person who comes to an elementary school like Sandy Hook, a live shooter at a high school like Columbine, or an orchestrated attack on a college campus like Oregon.
I’m so grateful for policies to keep my family safe. But it’s time to see our efforts focus on stopping the violence with as much passion as we place on being able to respond to it and stay alive.
Thanks so much for stopping by ~ see you next time!