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Let’s act on what we know

I did not go to a high school where an armed resource officer was present. I did not go to a school with metal detectors or active shooter drills. I never really considered the idea that someone might walk into my school and start shooting. I never thought about bullet-proof backpack inserts or how best to hide from a shooter. I never once felt unsafe at school.

My teachers, as far as I know, did not take active shooter training classes. They were there to teach, not defend us against an armed madman. Though I don’t doubt some of them would have given their lives to protect us, it wasn’t on anyone’s radar as a possibility.

I was a freshman when Luke Woodham killed two students and injured seven others with a .30-30 rifle at Pearl High School. But even after that, it never occurred to me that something like that could happen at my school. We knew each other, knew our teachers, and even though students occasionally met up after school to fight, we never thought the kind of violence that is becoming more common at schools today was a possibility.

We lived in a world before school shootings felt like a threat to every student, everywhere. I cannot imagine what it must feel like to be a student today. To live in fear of this madness. To know that it could happen, and to train for what to do if it happens.

As a former Boy Scout, I know that being prepared is necessary. Students need to know what to do if a killer walks into their school. But it’s a depressing state of reality to realize that. It leaves me with a feeling of dread to imagine a third-grader being told that someone might try to kill them at school. But that is what must happen now. Children must be told that the unthinkable might happen, that they must be prepared to run and hide if that horrible day ever comes.

Thankfully, local school districts are making sure administrators, students and teachers are prepared. It’s unimaginable that we live in a world where this is necessary, but the only alternative is to bury your head in the sand and pretend everything is OK. That approach won’t help anything, won’t keep children safe, won’t help solve any problem.

Just this week, students, teachers and police officers conducted an active shooter drill at Alexander Junior High. By all accounts, the drill went well. Students learned what to do and what not to do. Police and teachers did the same. These drills are necessary, but they are still heart-breaking.

I won’t pretend to know how to solve the problem of violence in schools. I think that some common sense gun control measures might help. I think that more police protection in schools might help. I know that reaching out to and helping hurt, angry boys will help. I know that addressing mental illness will help. I know that law enforcement treating complaints and threats seriously will help.

The world has always been violent. Our country has always been violent. But it feels different now. We all know it. What we do with that knowledge will determine how safe our children are.

Publisher Luke Horton can be reached at luke.horton@dailyleader.com.