What to Do if You Get the Columbine Note?

What to do if your child is threatened, school shooting, Run, hide, fight

What to do if your child is threatened at school? We don’t like to think about things like active shooters or bombings, do we? We’d like to believe that we know what we’d do. We’d protect our children, at all costs. But the truth is you have no idea how you would react if your child is threatened. I didn’t. It’s one of those fight or flight circumstances, you either run away and hide or you fight tooth and nail to keep your child safe in the situation. The intention is the same; save the child.

My fourth grader came home last Friday from school and said, “Mommy, I got this creepy note from school.” She threw the note at me from the back seat. I was expecting some weird cryptic message from some fellow student at school but that wasn’t what she got at all. Our school had come under threat from one of the children who attended the school and none of us were told until after the fact.

I was mad and terrified at the same time because how are you supposed to know what to do if your child is threatened? How do you protect your child from unseen or unanticipated dangers?

It was a letter from the school, alerting the parents that there had been a “situation” a “THREAT” at the school. We all know that is code for a Columbine/ Sandy Hook situation in the making. For a moment, I lost it…very quietly in my head because even though I was terrified, I couldn’t scare my children. They have to go to that place every day and they need to feel safe even if I don’t. I told them very little about the note. They just know there was an incident.

My daughters live in a very different world from the one I grew up in. I didn’t have drills to practice in case a “polar bear” got loose in the building and went on a “growling” spree. My mom’s last words to me every morning before school as she kissed me goodbye were not, “Love you! Remember if a “polar bear” gets in the building…bob and weave. Never run in a straight line!” We didn’t have to know active shooter protocol or what the acronym REHF meant. That’s run, escape, hide and fight for those of you who are not preparing for “polar bears” bearing down your hallways with an AK47s by the way.

I mean, what the hell is that? But it’s one of those things I need to say. Just like its compulsory that both of my children take their iPhones to school “in case of emergency” like the emergency that happened to Eddie Justice in the bathroom of the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando.

At school board meetings we have to discuss things like escape windows, bulletproof screens and hurricane doors to keep the danger out. We have security measures in place in case a strange “polar bear” shows up to terrorize our children but what about when there is a “polar bear” in student’s clothing? How do we protect our children from the unseen threats?

I’m not going to lie, the note and the intended threat that prompted it have shaken me as a mom. Every morning that I drop my kids off at school, I don’t want to. What if today is the day that a child makes good on an assumed idol threat? What if it wasn’t “just a threat”? What if it was a promise? What if it was a cry for help that went unnoticed? What if this is the last time I see my child alive?

I’ve had a knot in the pit of my stomach now for a week because we were not given all the facts. How could we be? It concerns a minor. We have to trust that the school is doing all that it can to protect our children from threats and polar bears and crazy people with guns. It’s hard to trust in others to protect your children in today’s world.

Of course, as a parent, the thought of someone putting our babies in danger is cause for pitchforks and rioting. We are all very upset. Why wasn’t school canceled? Why were we not told until the end of the day by way of a “creepy note”. Why would a child tell other children maliciously that they are “on my list”? What do we do? Where do we go from here?

The child was suspended which is what I consider a time-out. Not expelled, not ordered to compulsory psychiatric treatment but given the legally mandated slap on the wrist and called a bad boy.

I don’t know who the kid is and I don’t know what he might be going through. It might all be terrible and maybe he deserves my compassion and understanding but when it’s my child who is being put in danger, that all goes out the window. I am not reasonable when you threaten the most important thing in my world. I am outraged. I am mad. I want to feel secure again but I can’t.

But I pretend that I am for my girls. I teach my kids what to do in case of an emergency. I send them with their phones and tell them to bob and weave. I hug them tight and kiss them goodbye every single morning knowing that this could be the last time I see them while acting like everything is alright; like this is normal. Because this is our new normal.

I just want my daughters to be safe and less vulnerable when they are at school; when they are anywhere. What are my options? Put them in a bubble? Homeschool? Hide them away and make them think the world is a fairytale where everything and everyone is good? To lie to them?

I can’t, no matter how much I may want to because the world is not any of those things and I don’t want them to spend their lives hiding from life. I want them to explore, be carefree and adventurous. I want them to embrace all that life has to offer and you can’t do that from inside the safety of a prison of your mom’s making. So, I send them out into the world every day prepared (unknowingly) for the worst, hoping for the best and (me) praying for survival.

No matter how much we want to believe it, we cannot protect our children when they are outside of our care. We can only teach them to survive and advocate for their safety. I’m not trying to scare you. I know we are all already living with this fear. I just wanted you to know that it’s not just something that happens someplace else to someone else’s child.

Do you know what to do if your child is threatened from someone inside the school?

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