Tuesday, February 27

«You put yourself in the position of whether you have chicken or hero material»


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It’s eight in the morning. Like every day, the screeching voice of the director of the public primary school sounds over the loudspeaker where nearly a thousand students listen attentively inside the classes. Although of Hispanic origin, the director speaks in English and takes the opportunity, with the help of two students, to recite the names of those who have birthdays that same day. Next, the anthem of honor to the United States Flag is played. The entire building suddenly receives the voices of the thousand students who, in unison, recite the prayer with rhythm and musicality.

Once the ritual to start the day is finished, and after breakfast in the same classrooms, the circulations are made from one part of the building to another.

They are the so-called “lines” or student lines, which are a kind of art in themselves. It consists of getting a significant number of little people to move through the corridors as if they were practically invisible and undetectable. For various reasons, not just for discipline or not to disturb. Also and, above all, for safety.

A perfect line – the teacher’s responsibility is to achieve it – is one in which everyone has their feet on a tile well together. Hands linked behind the back. And the mouth inflated with air. That is to say: do not touch, do not get out of line, do not speak. The result is worth seeing, especially coming from the hubbub typical of a public institute in Spain. Here in Texas, the boys and girls move like a Santa Compaña a centimeter above the floor of the corridor, so that the slight brush of their feet is barely heard when they walk.

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This is not optional. A line is either perfect, or the teacher has a problem. Why such a degree of control? One soon realizes that a building dedicated to teaching in Dallas, Texas, like the Adelfa Botello Callejo Elementary School in the south of the city, where I was teaching in 2016 and 2017, to students from Pre-K (five years ) up to 5th Grade (10-11 years old) has to be a safe place, yes or yes, since the management team knows by statistics that the entry of an intruder or the appearance of an armed person inside it can have tragic consequences. And it is possible.

There are, therefore, periodic protocols, much more serious and timed than those carried out in Spain. And they are of two types: One, evacuation, where each teacher must always have two cards on hand, one green and one black. Leaving the building as soon as possible, in an orderly manner, he will hold up the green card if all the students are there. And the black one, if any are missing. In this way, action can be taken quickly.

The other type of simulation is more peculiar: it consists of the announcement with an alarm that an armed intruder has entered the building. So, what you have to do is hide the students under the tables, without making any noise, almost without breathing. And the teacher hide, near the door.

This simulation can last ten or more minutes and becomes distressing, because the imagination begins to fly quickly, putting you in the position of whether the wood with which you are made inside is that of a chicken or that of a hero. And how would you act if instead of a drill, it was a person armed to the teeth and ready to kill? Because, unfortunately, and as long as the legislation in America does not change, guns can be bought without any restrictions in practice.

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It is true that the centers maximize security: metal control at the entrance, screening of visitors, parents or guardians, or whoever has an appointment inside the building. Access doors always closed, except at times of entry or exit. And it is also true that the feeling of security is total. Nobody fears. Nobody is afraid. Although we all know that there is a remote possibility of something like this happening. Let there be children dead and others injured. And, worst of all, the certainty that it could be avoided.

* Alvaro Alonso was a teacher at a school in Dallas, Texas, between 2016 and 2017

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