School safety: What about fighting back?

Sisters Laura and Sarah Postigo argue that students should learn self-defense skills.


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Laura and Sarah Postigo propose classes in self-defense

About three years ago, my high school had a false alarm for a fire. Thankfully, all people evacuated the building in a relatively organized manner because we all knew what to do. Our district seems to prepare us well in regard to hazardous fire situations. However, as more and more violence occurs in our world, we must also learn how to adequately prepare ourselves for these situations as well.

The number of school shootings, such as the one in Parkland, Florida that took 17 lives, has been growing.  Everytown, a gun safety support group and research fund source, noted the “nearly 300 school shootings in America” since 2013.  This should be a concerning fact to everyone, because it proves that acts of violence CAN happen at any time, anywhere. While it is true that our school district requires lockdown drills in order to practice hiding from a shooter, this tactic is only useful to prevent a shooter from locating us.  Sadly, there is still the possibility that the shooter might find and confront us.

What shall we do then? If the enemy is standing outside the classroom door, we become sitting ducks with no place to run. What shall we do when an armed attacker becomes aware of our location? What shall we do when the active shooter enters our classroom? Is there nothing left for us to do but pray? After the Parkland school shooting, it has become painfully apparent that armed attacks are no longer an “If it happens…” scenario but a “When it happens…” scenario.

The United States Department of Homeland Security’s guideline on responding to an active shooter says to: 1. RUN, 2. HIDE, 3. FIGHT (as a last resort). We are currently taught how to hide in school, but running is not advised, and fighting back is rarely even mentioned. How can we incorporate Homeland Security’s recommendations into our lives?

Teaching self-defense could save lives.  We suggest that schools have a defense class as a part of Physical Education. In theory, the class would specifically focus on how to physically defend yourself against an armed opponent. The defense class could be based on martial arts, since martial arts train people how to defend themselves against physical threats.

A class such as the one described would teach students knowledge that will be valuable and potentially life-saving. Defense classes teach lifelong skills that empower citizens to save themselves from dangerous situations wherever they are, not just in schools. It might take a great effort to put together a defense class for schools, but in the end, the knowledge attained by students will prevent unwanted violence from becoming a tragedy.

It would also be helpful to know how to use our surroundings if an attacker enters the school. If we have this knowledge during an attack, we would be able to quickly analyze our surroundings to see what could be used as possible protection, distractions, or makeshift weapons to use against an attacker.

One article published in late 2015 explored the possible factors that had spared North Dakota from any mass shootings; it was one of only 11 states at the time that had not experienced this kind of tragedy (“North Dakota one of 11 states without a school shooting since Sandy Hook” Archie Ingersol, Oct. 6, 2015).   Sgt. George Vinson is one of the Fargo, ND, Police Department’s school resource officers, assigned to middle schools and high schools.   When students act out, school resource officers work with school staff to correct a student’s behavior before it culminates in a school shooting, said Vinson.  “It’s something that we have to prepare for,” he said. “As much as we might like to think that that’ll never happen here, it’s that kind of attitude that gets people hurt.”

We, as children, need to learn to survive in a world of violence. Children are the way of the future and we need to be taught to endure this dangerous reality. As the saying goes, prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

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