School Shootings: Protect Your Child


None on campus

In the wake of a new school shooting, many parents are struggling to find ways to prevent their children from being victims. Although history bares shootings in school settings are rarer than airplane crashes, arguably their effects are more devastating. There are effective ways of preparing children to avoid their becoming victims.

Playing an active role in a child’s life is no longer sufficient to protect him. Parents must take and teach a proactive approach to life.

Students interviewed in the American school shootings have all given the same account: They were unaware of what was going on around them.

Limit Distractions

blackberry cell phone

Busies eyes, ears and minds.

Whether distracted by an iPod, BlackBerry or cell phone, students are not taking notice of their surroundings. Students stopped on the sidewalk are unable to answer the question, What did the last person you passed look like? Witnesses of school shootings are unable to answer: Where was the shooter? Did the shooter already have the gun?

Students must be acutely aware of their surroundings at all times. They need to be able to identify places where someone can lie in wait or conceal weapons.

Know Your Neighbor

Students should also be observant of the people they encounter on a regular basis. Although not acquainted, students should be able to pick out those who occupy their space within a short period of time. Knowing who is supposed to populate their frequent paths is how they are able to pick out strangers who may represent danger.


ICE stands for In Case of Emergency. Each student should have an ICE number programmed into a cell phone. Program it to appear on the lock screen. The entry should be for someone who can be reached during class time and can give permission for medical treatment. The ICE number should be in addition to a regular entry and give an unknown user enough information to know for whom to ask. The contact list entry should look like one of these:

ICE Mom Work Jane Doe
ICE Gramps Max Doe
ICE Uncle Mickey Doe

A counselor or adviser should be in each student’s emergency contact list, both on a cell phone and in the dormitory or student housing. Children need to be able to report when they have identified someone with whom they are uncomfortable. As members of the school community, they must take the responsibility of protecting themselves, which in turn protects others in the process.

Responsible Handling

police lineup

Know whom to choose.

Parents need to discuss gun responsibility and weapon possession with their children. If a student knows of any person who is in possession of a firearm or weapon on campus, he should know whom to call or report. Discussion about avoidance of those people who persist in such possession should also occur. Parental intervention must take place in notifying police in this instance.


Open discussion between parents and children about the causation of school shootings is of major importance. Do not wait until the child is a teen to have this kind of dialog. Explore the following:

  • mental conditions
  • peer pressure
  • stress factors
  • irresponsibility
  • bullying
  • isolation
  • other factors leading to these tragedies

It is forever.

Children must understand the finality of death. Many children believe death is transient because their games entail additional lives and the ability to regenerate life. In reality, death is final. This realization is a deterrent to behaviors which lead to death.

Play Possum

playing possum

Play dead.

If gunfire erupts in a school, the very first thing a student should do is drop to the ground and pretend to be dead. Do not move or look around until well after the shooting has stopped or a school employee gives the instruction to get up and evacuate.

Running from where you perceive the sound of gunfire only makes you a moving target. Playing dead makes you look like a hit target and no longer of interest.

It takes a village.

Engage the acquaintances and friends of your children in active dialog which can reveal some of the indicators which are present prior to violent acts. When discovering inappropriate behavior in a child’s peer group, contact the parents of the child in question and the school. Vigilance on the part of one parent must be companion to the awareness of the other parents.


This is not a subject which needs to or should wait until there is an abominable tragedy. Talk to your children regularly about all manner of things. Be certain you are listening to the things they say. You never know when idle chit-chat will lead to a telling admission.

If your child knows what to notice, he may well tell you while you are not paying attention. Be fair by being vigilant with him, and notice what he has noticed.

Protecting their children is parents’ first responsibility. Arm children with the knowledge and observation skills they need to survive. It may be the difference between surviving a school shooting or becoming a victim.

What other wisdom can you pass to your children about preventing school shootings? How many parents know who is on the sidewalk with their child? How important is parent networking?

© Red Dwyer 2012
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  1. The timing of this post is FAB-u-lous. The advice is wonderful. Am going to send this to my daughter so that she can start with her 8-yr-old. Thank you.

    • Thank you. This is an adaption of a piece I wrote after I reported on the Virginia Tech shooting. I was really sickened after it happened, and the things I discovered as I investigated it. One of the forums in which I was very active housed a lot of worried parents who were all convinced the only solution was to take their children out of school and society.

      I have been a parent a long time. I knew then, as I still know, that was not the solution. Some of the statements taken from children (and adults) who have witnessed these horrors will make your hair stand on end.

      I hope everyone takes something away from this one and applies it to everyday life in the mall and at the grocery and walking along the beach. The best offense is a good defense.

  2. It is shocking to society in general and people in particular when someone takes a child’s life. When that someone enters a school, where we send our kids to learn and grow, we lose a sense of self and a sense of safety that we were raised on and, after all too many times of it happening, still fail to believe that it can happen today in North America, by North Americans. We almost expect to see it in some countries (Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Chad, etc) but when it hits close to home, it really hits home!

    Great, thought and fear provoking post!

    • I mean to raise awareness. I spent a long time as an advocate for Refuse to Be a Victim. These are the core ideals for self-defense. I hope more than just parents are listening.

  3. I wish we didn’t have to talk about this, but that world is gone. Good list of ways to help keep your child safe. Sadly, this is also introducing a world where people jump at shadows (or over-react). I guess it comes with the increase in deadly violence. Maybe we need to talk about that aspect of it too. Good post Ann Marie 🙂

    • No, this is not about living in fear. This is about being aware of what happens around you. If I asked you what the last person you saw on the sidewalk was wearing, could you tell me? I am not asking people to be afraid, but to be observant.

  4. What gets me is how many times students will cover for other students. This happens with things like suicide also. I think we need to teach our kids to take every threat seriously, even if it makes a friend mad. I would rather make a friend mad them see them dead. This is not about living in fear, it is about making kids aware of the world that they live in and how to get help when needed. Schools, by the way, drive me crazy on this because they can be so fearful of talking about it. “If we talk about it, they will do it.” That’s nonsense. Talk about it and then talk about it some more.

    • I am not engaging in a discussion on politics, but the pervasiveness of the ostrich imitations in schools is producing another generation worse than ours about looking the other way…burying the head in the sand…about anything remotely unpleasant. Not driving me crazy…making me see Red.

      • My main point here is: If something doesn’t feel/seem quite right, it is time to say something about it. That message needs to be taught by anyone who cares about kids. Sorry, I didn’t intend to get you into politics, but I just wanted to help the spam bots on their quest. 😉

  5. bear

     /  March 1, 2012

    Learning begins in the home. Not all people are observant this is an understatement, The thing that is the saddest is there were signs of this child’s illness but no one saw it. There are so many normal people that snap and take their own or someone else’s life and the signs are there. Be observant. Teach you children what to look for. Report something that appears to be a concern with another person. It maybe nothing but better safe than sorry.

  6. We’ve had very few incidents here in the UK involving firearms and children, but Dunblaine was a game changer when a maniac called Thomas Hamilton slaughtered a class of four-year-olds and their teachers leading to the banning of handguns.

    Even so the criminals find it relatively easy to get firearms which are made by converting European blank firing replicas into live fire weapons for which they even make ammunition for.

    These underground armourers are found and arrested, but the weapons still get out on the street and yesterday a Police Officer who was blinded by a shotgun fired by Raoul Moat took his own life.

    The only way to stop this is to make it a life sentence for carrying a gun, manufacturing/converting a gun and the death penalty for using a gun.

    Unfortunately we’re not likely to see this here in the UK…

    All I can do is hope nobody I know gets killed by a gunman – the use of illegal knives has also killed many and my neigthbour Doug owns an illegal switchblade, so I have to keep him at arms length…

    Love and hugs!


  7. Excellent article Red with many well thought out practical tips for parents to discuss with their children.. It is an insane world when such things happen & so sad for those young ones who lose their lives in such senseless tragedy.& for the families left to cope with the horror of what happened to their beloved children.
    P.S. I’m way behind in my blog reading but slowly catching up.

    • Thank you, Tony. I just grow weary of the “woe is me” reaction which has to admit there was zero planning. *sigh* As a parent, I am not a helicopter…I am much more time machine.

      PS You can follow the advice I have been handing out lately…toss the ones you are behind. Go to fresh ones and see if anything catches your fancy. 😉

  8. I wouldn’t even begin to know.
    All I can do is: Tell my kids to be kind to everyone. If someone is unkind to you or you don’t care for them, then just leave them be. Also, defend yourself if you need to, but only if you need to. I tell them these things due to “mean girl” syndrome and bullying.
    Sadly, I wouldn’t know where to begin if someone has a mental illness or is prone to such thinking or violence. I really don’t know what you can do, except watch for signs and tell if you know of someone or something that is threatening

    • The big thing is keep talking to them. Get to know their friends. I will never advocate being your child’s best friend, but be close enough their friends are willing to open up. It helps for them to talk about it, but they need your guidance because some of the reasons they assign to bad and destructive behavior would curl your toes.

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