Sending my kids to school in the age of active shooters

Yesterday Anna, my 22-month old, was throwing a tantrum. She threw herself onto the floor, curled her body over her knees with her forehead pressed to the carpet, and wailed.

“Look!” Mary exclaimed. “Anna is doing a lockdown drill!”

David and Mary laughed and laughed at the absurdity of a lockdown drill! At home! Ha! Ha! Lockdown drills are for at school!

For my kids, lockdown drills are a normal part of learning school routines. Never in all my years in school did I do a lockdown drill. This is normal now, for our children to fall to the ground with their heads pressed to the floor. They practice the posture — their elementary school teachers explaining the procedure in terms that will inform them without scaring them. Lock the doors. Turn out the lights. Stay still.

I know my teachers love my kids in a way that wasn’t necessary not long ago.

My children do not completely understand the drill that they are practicing. They do not know that for two decades their parents and teachers have stood in front of the television and read news reports with tears streaming down their faces.

This is an aspect of raising children that my parents didn’t experience. My peers and I  were teenagers when Columbine happened, college students when Virginia Tech happened, and parents when Sandy Hook happened; this phenomena of tragedy and fear grew up with us. Now, every morning, we are sending our children off to school. We pack healthy lunches in BPA-free containers, double-check homework, and make sure shoes aren’t pinching toes. We ignore that voice in the back of our head and instead believe the statistics — even though school shootings are happening more frequently, they’re still incredibly rare. We trust our schools’ safety policies, we cringe when we hear that our kids are doing lockdown drills but are glad to know the administration is prepared.

There are many ways to respond, and this is not a comprehensive article. This post does not address the fact that gun violence affects minorities at much higher rates than white families living in the suburbs. This post does not enumerate ways to become activists or politically involved (which you should do!) In fact, this post is not a political statement at all.

This post is an open door into my home in the morning, when I’m sending my kids off to school and occasionally the thought crosses my mind, “What if it happens here?”

Last year I sent two kids to school, and not long into the school year I realized that my thoughts were wandering to scary places too often. I wasn’t exactly sure what to do with that so I ignored it and moved on. But then I realized that my response wasn’t a response at all; I was missing out on God’s comfort by not crying out to Him.

Sometime in the fall last year I started a simple “leaving for school” routine. After they put on their shoes and backpacks and before hustling them down the driveway, I gather the kids and we say our memory verse for the month. Then I say a quick prayer over them. The prayer is simple. I thank God for His goodness to us, and pray that the kids will trust Jesus. It is short, sometimes I’m shouting over sibling bickering, and sometimes we’re late and already walking down the street.

The whole thing takes about two minutes and always includes several interruptions. It’s not perfect, but this routine fills me up. Somehow the act of hurried prayers has changed me. I believe it’s because Jesus uses these moments of scrapped-together faithfulness to remind me that He’s holding all of us.

Fear exposes my lack of faith, especially in parenting. When I pray for my kids I am praying for myself to remember that His promises are true — I’m convinced that this is the most powerful thing I can do.

This simple ritual is faith-building for me and, I trust, grounding for my kids. My prayers don’t change the character of God or His willingness to protect my kids. Instead, they redirect my heart when it is seeking untrustworthy idols of protection — my suburb, statistics, an irrational belief that if I love them enough nothing bad will ever happen.

We are not meant to live in fear. We are meant to live with our eyes and hearts open wide to see God at work, even in times of fear. Especially in times of fear.




  1. Amy G. September 24, 2019

    My daughter is going to kindergarten next year and I have so many thoughts and emotions going through me already! I just want her to grow up happy and safe, yet we live in such a fearful world!

  2. Nikki Recchion September 24, 2019

    I talk to my husband a lot about home school and the possibility and scariness of this happening. makes me sick to my stomach.

  3. Kelly September 24, 2019

    It is so sad that we even have to have these drills or even have this be a conversation for the kids. Hopefully, this will change in the future years.

  4. Jennifer September 26, 2019

    My 1st grader came home the other day talking about his active shooter drill. It’s scary to think about. Our babies have to grow up in such a scary, scary world.

  5. Tamara September 26, 2019

    I needed this as I’ve been struggling with this and I live in Canada and work on the school system.

  6. Darcy September 26, 2019

    I think we all have these fears as parents. It’s never going to not be crazy to me that my kids do active shooter drills.

  7. Emma September 27, 2019

    Sending my kids off to school has been super hard. I don’t think their school calls them shooter drills – just “lockdown drills.” My oldest never questioned them, but my youngest (in K this year) has. I try and remind myself that I can keep my kids out of school to homeschool them, but the reality is that the threat is also at the grocery store or the movies.

    I volunteer with Mom’s Demand Action and encourage everyone who is concerned with this topic to do the same.

  8. Beth September 30, 2019

    My son is 2 and I can’t believe this is the world he is growing up in. I work at a university where it’s happened so it doesn’t feel so impossible. I’m so happy to hear you’ve turned this world we live in into another opportunity to pray and trust God.


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