The concept of creating a “Just Say Go” program grew out the words of this father’s blog post from 2013 just after the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting. We owe him a debt of gratitude for planting the seed that we hope will grow and flourish into an organization that will work to prepare ALL of our precious school children and staff to “Just Say Go”. Thank you!
In 1982 when asked by a young schoolgirl what to do when someone offered her drugs, First Lady Nancy Reagan replied “Just Say No.” These words soon became ubiquitous and the catchy marketing slogan for a “Just Say No” campaign was taught to millions of school children in the United States. Multiple health organizations say that it’s never too early to talk to our kids about drugs. Most of these groups recommend different approaches depending on the age of the child. We talk to our kids about all sorts of dangers in the world. As the father of a 5-year-old son, I have talked to him about who is allowed to touch him in certain places on his body. I also tell him to never to talk to strangers. Parents of teenage children have to talk with kids about the dangers of texting when driving. These conversations are sometimes difficult to have and often uncomfortable for both parent and child. But how many of us talk to our kids about what to do if there is an Active Shooter situation? And what should we say to them?
My father taught me at an early age that the world was divided into “good guys and bad guys.” This was likely the inspiration for me to pursue a career in law enforcement. I have tried to pass this along to my son. I know that as he gets older, and his mental and philosophical capabilities increase, he will begin to see all of the moral ambiguities in the world, and he, like all adults, will realize that sometimes the world is not divided easily into “good guys and bad guys.” But at 5, it is easy to tell him that the police are good guys, and that you never, never want to be a bad guy. When we play Legos or other games, he always wants to be the good guy, and this interaction with him has allowed me to stress that sometimes bad guys do awful things, and that’s why the good guys are here. The good guys catch the bad guys. But I have never thought about telling him what to do when confronted by a bad guy with a gun.
As every tragic school shooting unfolds, it compounds our duty as parents to talk to our children about what to do in the event of an Active Shooter. I have talked to my son about good guys and bad guys. But I have never talked to him about what to do if he hears gunfire at school, or if he sees someone with a gun while out in public. The standard Active Shooter response philosophy given now by experts is “Run, Hide, Fight,” or some variation of that recognizing that this must be explained in nuances with regard to children and others with special needs. But, I would never teach my 5 year old the “Fight” option as he is physically incapable of performing this option effectively. It is also difficult to teach him the shelter in place portion; “Hide”. The only real option left is the “Flight” option, which is easy to teach a 5 year old. I can easily tell him to run if ever he feels in danger.
As parents, we obviously don’t have all of the answers. Every parent should do and say the things to their child that they feel is appropriate for their situation and according to their own beliefs. Regardless of a parent’s beliefs on gun control, our desire to keep kids safe is universal. The causes of a person’s commission of horrific acts of violence to children and other innocent people are irrelevant at the moment a child is faced with that horrific violence. This is a very difficult topic that no one looks forward to discussing with their child. But it should be just as important as “Don’t talk to strangers,” the dangers of drugs and of texting and driving. The “Just Say Go” conversation is also one that we should all discuss at work. Almost all companies and agencies now provide some level of Active Shooter training to employees. We must also share the concept of “Just Say Go” to our kids and families.