I am a mom, an aspiring entrepreneur, and a volunteer mentor. One day a week I have the pleasure of meeting with an amazing high school student who earns a full scholarship through the mentorship program by maintaining good grades and meeting with me regularly throughout her high school career. My job is to make sure she stays on track in school and help her navigate her way toward a promising future with a pathway to college. Our meetings are held at her high school campus in the library; unless one of us has an unavoidable scheduling conflict that forces us to meet through a virtual lens (thanks to the technology put in place during Covid). I prefer meeting with her in person because it provides a much greater opportunity to develop a strong rapport with her.
Today during our usual thirty-minute session, the vice principal announced over the intercom that the school was being placed on a CODE RED LOCKDOWN. It’s ironic that I serve in this mentoring role to be a guiding influence for my student as she navigates high school, and at this moment, SHE was the expert who had to walk me through what was expected of me. I looked to her to determine where I was supposed to go, and she escorted me to a closet in the corner of the library where I filed in a very orderly fashion (with about 20 or so other students). Once inside, we all found a spot on the floor and took a seat, after which point we were told to remain completely silent and the lights were turned off.
As I sat on the floor with these students this bizarre reality hit me… this is their normal, but it isn’t mine. I sat and listened in the dark for any kind of indication as to why we were all confined to a dark closet, but only heard the rumblings of students’ stomachs and a couple of male students whispering about who “might” have been bullied at school and wanted retaliation. As nervous as I felt, they did not seem rattled much or at all. What a sickening reality… this is their normal.
Suddenly an announcement over the intercom advising that the threat was over. (Bad intel from the police about someone being on the campus without permission). The lights were turned back on and school resumed as usual. For the students, it was nothing more than a hiccup in their morning. “Felt like one of our typical drills…” I heard one say as he was grabbing his backpack and heading to class. I forget they practice this regularly. I thought back to a program I helped create in college that paired a member of the state legislature or Board of Trustees with a student to spend “A day in the life of a college student.” At the time, it was to provide the political figure with a student’s perspective on class size and parking nightmares, not to get a taste of what it is like to barricade yourself in a dark closet listening for sounds of screams or gunshots in your midst. I wonder today how it might be to have a state or federal legislator spend 10 minutes in the dark with students during an actual CODE RED; would it have any impact? I can only hope…
Our kids deserve better.