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'The Damage is Real'

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On April 19, my work site had a lockdown drill during the afternoon portion of the day. Schools have a minimum of two lockdown drills a year, in addition to monthly fire drills and less frequent earthquake drills. Drills have extremely loud alarms and flashing lights. It is very negatively stimulating. Many of my students asked when the drill would be starting. The anticipation was distracting.

My students had the support of entering a darkened room after lunch recess (we take naps) and a gentle class drill practice the day before. Knowing that the drill can lead to intense feelings of fear, I led the children to our hiding place two minutes before the alarm sounded so the kids could have a moment to settle before the drama began. One child still bolted. Four children pressed tightly to two classroom teachers. Most children covered their ears and tucked their little bodies even tighter into themselves. Loud alarms went off three ... four ... five times.

It is really hard to be calm through the noise.

Our principal came onto the intercom reading her script in a very loud and very stern voice.

It was really hard to stay calm through the noise.

After the noise went away, we sat as quietly as we could. We heard the outside staff shake both our classroom doors and rattle the doorknobs.

It was really hard to stay calm.

We sat as quietly as we could.

We waited. And we waited.

Schools hold two types of safety lockdowns. Hard lockdowns are when we hide. Soft lockdowns are when we can have normal activities inside a tightly locked classroom with all windows darkened. Students appeared more relaxed when their classroom routine returned during a soft lockdown, but as we moved from a hard to soft lockdown, I saw much more hyperactivity and negative social behaviors than typically observed. We went outside to the playground as quickly as we could to move the fear off our bodies.

This is a classroom of 4- and 5-year-old children. They are not yet experienced in the world of recurring gun violence. When we practice these drills, they hear the voice tone used as if we are practicing writing the letters of our names or keeping our hands to ourselves.

My students are the youngest students at their school. They will have 14 years to experience this school-based trauma. Add in the lockdowns that are real, the lockdowns that teachers know aren't really a practice, the lockdowns that involve active shouting, gun fire, explosions. The damage is real.

If a person holding a gun enters my classroom, I will die. Most of my children will die. At professional development trainings, I am taught to run (with a class of students following me — children I love as much as my own sons?), to fight (we are told to whack a person with a fire extinguisher — hand-to-hand combat should now be discussed in a teaching contract?) or to hide.

This is wrong. My words are not just a statement of fact, but a call to action.

Remove all gun lobbyists and misinformation. Interpret the Second Amendment for a world which we have created and now live in.

Trisha Sanders is a teacher for Eureka City Schools and an active Eureka Teacher's Union member.

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