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On Youth Activism and My Active-Shooter Training

Emil Photo Again Edited 61b7dabb61239

There’s a new set of loud, defiant voices that arrived on the scene last week that makes diversity a whole lot more inclusive.

Make way for the heretofore-ignored minors of all stripes and sizes. They are now their own group, the post-millennials, persons under the age of 18, who after Parkland can no longer be ignored, especially as they age and become generally woke, politically active adults.

With Parkland they have found their cause, their voice. And when they walked out of class last week and protested the inaction of politicians and a society controlled by NRA logic, they struck a nerve.

I got a sense of the change when I began teaching as an adjunct again in the California State University system this semester. Diversity in journalism, naturally.

But I didn’t expect the most important lesson so far wouldn’t come from the pearls of wisdom I would impart to my students.

My class and I actually learned it together on Feb. 14 – the day 17 were killed and as many were wounded at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

While I was teaching the class, the numbers were just trickling in. The students were all following it on their phones.

During class, the door in the classroom was open. Instinctively, I went to shut it. As it happens, it’s one of the lessons in my active-shooter training.

When I last taught as an adjunct, there was no need for such a thing. You didn’t have to look at exits, or for classrooms with locking doors, or furniture that would work more for cover rather than just concealment. But since then, there’s been Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook and a number of other instances.

After Parkland, a Cal State active-training video has become my very own active-shooter training.

Actually, there are three types of such training available at the school. In addition to this video, there’s a PowerPoint class and another with a live officer going through scenarios. The video is used throughout the Cal State system and is pretty direct and blunt. It’s short enough to make you watch. It’s straightforward enough to understand the stakes involved. But the key takeaways about what to do can be boiled down to three words: Run. Hide. Fight.

Some other highlights:

If it sounds like gunfire, it’s gunfire.

“Don’t wait for confirmation,” the narrator says.

And the police? They are minutes away. You don’t have time to wait for police.

If you’re outside on the quad, the instructions are simple. Run and don’t stop running, even to look back. Zig-zag your path to not be a straight target. As soon as possible, call 911 and report an active shooter. Don’t assume it’s already been called in.

People who are hurt? Don’t be Florence Nightingale. Run and get help.

If you’re in a class, hide. The best classroom is one with no windows and a locking door, a class that looks abandoned. Lock and barricade the door, turn off the lights and be quiet. A shooter doesn’t waste time trying to break into a locked room that looks unoccupied.

Of course, the best time to scout out exits, closets and possible hiding places is the present, when there’s no shooter. There’s a lot to be said for being prepared.

The last of the key words is “fight.”

Not sure about this one. The NRA might say this is where concealed-carry laws on campuses like University of Texas make sense. Or that arming teachers makes sense. I don’t think so. Guns beget violence. Don’t allow them and you have a different fight that’s a lot less lethal.

The training I saw suggests using chairs, pens or even a fire extinguisher to surprise an active shooter. But that would take some heroism.

The film shows an animated drawing of a girl around a corner waiting to squirt a shooter with an extinguisher. It just didn’t seem realistic.  That’s where the film lost it for me.

If you’re not prepared to bum rush the shooter with a group of other hero students,  fighting back unarmed against an AR-15 is just plain suicidal.

But that’s where we are in the last resort of an active-shooter situation.

Of course, Donald Trump would go in and fight, right? Doubt it. He’d send in Rex Tillerson and Andrew McCabe first to test.

Because of the “fight” component, the video hardly left me encouraged. I’ve started up my old martial arts classes and working out, though. Back to my burpees and wrestling attackers to the ground. If I had to fight back, I’d have some fight in me. But, as we said in the 1960s, I’m a lover, not a fighter. I love the voices of the post-millennials and even those among my students who joined the walkout in solidarity, peacefully.

How do you prevent another Parkland? Not by arming students, or teachers, or even by sharing active-shooter trainings. The only way is by loud protests to change gun access laws.

That’s what was consoling about last week’s march. It was a new cry added to the array of voices of diversity. They are the loud #hashtag warriors of the digital future. Peaceful disruptors, all. Change is coming.

Emil Guillermo is a journalist, commentator and lecturer in Northern California. He writes for the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund.

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