This morning, schools across the country and here in Southwest Florida were evaluating if they would have been prepared if tragedy were to strike their campus.
Like many parents, I drove my daughter to school today and felt that combination of guilt, fear, and helplessness that follows a mass shooting at a school.
She told me she was scared, as I walked her to her first grade classroom.
And, the people who run her school, Discovery Day Academy in Bonita Springs, spent the night before on social media monitoring a 50-post-long Facebook conversation in which parents talked about how to step up safety at a school that already has layers of locked doors restricting access.
"Adding a mental health counselor, someone the students feel comfortable talking to," School Director Elizabeth Garcia said. "Adding a security guard to our campus and also staff and parent education as well."
Garcia already met with a Lee County Sheriff’s Deputy this morning to walk the school’s layout and talk best practices.
"He actually reached out to check on our school this morning, which is a rarity, and I feel like all schools could benefit," Garcia said. "I feel like the sheriff’s office could partner with public and private schools to have a deputy or lieutenant that administrators could rely on to give them the expertise they need.”
For their part, the students didn’t say much about the shooting, which happened at a school less than a two-hour drive away.
“I’m not sure if they’re always going to just come out and say it," Alana Cardenas said, "because it’s different when you say it out loud. You can think about it, but it becomes more real when you say it out loud.”
Cardenas is the director of the lower school — kids in Kindergarten through 6th grade. She says arming kids with knowledge is a delicate balance between scared and prepared, which is why she says the school will also strive to become ALICE certified.
"ALICE itself stands for Alert, Lock Down, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate, and it’s basically preparing children if there’s ever an active shooter in our environment," Cardenas said. "It’s done in a way that’s actually appropriate for young children.”
Cardenas says the online teacher’s certification is followed by a book for kids called, “I’m Not Scared, I’m Prepared.”