Safety Week

This past week the middle school where I hang out went through its various safety drills. Each day, except Wednesday, we went through one of the four drills for the various situations that schools prepare for these days.

On one day we sheltered in place in case our area ever had a tornado alert. About 20 years ago, a school less than 30 miles away from us was hit and destroyed, so the possibility of it happening, although remote, is still something that many are familiar with. My class took refuge in the girls’ restroom, an eye-opening experience for the boys. It was as if they had been allowed to enter forbidden territory without the threat of consequences. One boy commented on a startling revelation he had been given, that the girls’ restroom smelled a lot better than the boys’ restroom.

Another day we had a fire drill, and on a different day there was a lockout where no one is allowed to enter the building because either something is happening in the area around the school, or, as happened once last year, a wild animal (bobcat) has been sighted.

And then there is the lockdown, where classrooms and students are secured as a result of the increasing number of school invasions that have happened in recent years.

Although the four drills took time away from instruction, they were very beneficial for the staff and students to practice just in case!

It’s different from when I was in school back in the 70s. We practiced getting under our desks in case there was ever a nuclear attack. We always wondered how a wooden desk that had 25 years of initials carved into it and about a hundred gobs of gum stuck underneath the top could keep us from being incinerated by an atomic bomb being dropped within a few miles of us. We obediently, however, like unsuspecting lambs being led to the slaughter, crawled under our desks and waited until the “All Clear” signal was given.

If I remember correctly, we had fire drills, but very, very infrequently. Like once a year, but never when I wanted one. Being spared from a few minutes of math class never seemed to be my good fortune.

We did have two bomb threats one year. On the first one, school was dismissed for the day and everyone cheered as we exited the building, more excited about a day that had suddenly been freed up from academics instead of the possibility of being blown to pieces. It ended up that a student hadn’t studied for a math test and had placed a call on the school pay phone (Remember those?) to report a bomb had been planted in the building. He was found out and, I guess you could say, his number was up!

Someone else thought it was such a great idea, that he called in a threat a couple of days after that. However, the school administration and local law enforcement had wised up in the time since the first one. We were all evacuated to the football stadium until the school was searched, and then classes resumed about 20 minutes later. There were no other bomb threats after that. Twenty minutes sitting with a thousand students on bleachers in the midst of a cold February morning took care of the thrill.

It’s a different day we live in compared to the early 70s. Back then, Vietnam was winding down. It was the hot topic of conflict. Nowadays, conflict seems to have various places to call home. School shootings are more frequent than congressional agreement on anything. Nowadays, we talk about bullying on social media. It can happen suddenly and numerous times out of the blue. At any moment, a kid can go from feeling happy to being scared or depressed. Back in my younger days, bullying was mostly restricted to Johnny telling you he was going to find you after school and put a hurting on you.

Schools are a different world than they were back in the day, complicated, complex, and yet sophisticated. Kids, however, have the same bizarre combination of emotions that they have always had. Fear, anger, frustration, joy, tears and laughter, confusion and uncertainty, friendly and isolated, extroverts and introverts. The environment has changed, but the basic ingredients of kids are still the same.

And not a single student had to crawl under a desk this week!

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