Update: I mention gun control laws in this post as a solution for reducing school shootings. This is only part of the solution. NYU professor and podcaster Scot Galloway on Pivot this week offered the idea of trying to reduce the number of young men with no attachments as part of the solution. The idea is many young men are not part of school activities such as sports teams, theatre troupes, etc. or do not belong to church groups, YMCA, community centers, etc. They are isolated due to weak family structure and social media/internet as well. All of us should be working, especially in schools, to connect students to mentor-adults in their lives and to classmates.
The Association for the Advancement of International Education (AAIE) has been such a great resource for me during the pandemic. They hold weekly open Zoom sessions with directors from all over the world and I always pick up a resource, an idea, or a contact every time that I join the conversation. Because the directors of AAIE are located in New York, the Thursday Zoom session is at 8:00 AM Eastern time which is either 5:00 PM or 6:00 PM here in Tashkent. I often have meetings on Thursdays during that time so I don’t get a chance to attend the live sessions as much as I would like.
The topic of conversation last week was the school massacre in Uvalde, Texas. Every time I hear of another mass shooting it breaks my heart for the families and angers me that this happens so often in my native country. I don’t see an end to them. Because there are so many handguns and automatic rifles produced and sold in the USA every year, it is impossible to prevent people from using them on each other and themselves. With over 400 million guns owned by Americans, how can the government and schools stop future school shootings? There are too many unstable men with either mental illness or anger who turn to gun violence. How many suicides and murders could be prevented? How do you take back that amount of guns?
We were discussing the value of safety drills in international schools to prevent violence from occurring on our campuses. There has not been a mass shooting in an international school, but there have been attacks from extremists or criminals, although thankfully, these are extremely rare. We are fortunate here in Uzbekistan not to have much violent crime. Uzbekistan is a type of police state with the government having a lot of control over citizens’ lives. There is not much private gun ownership and little gun violence or crime here. TIS still takes security seriously, however, and with the cooperation of the US State Department security programs for schools, we have established routines and facilities that will help protect students and employees.
One of my AAIE colleagues alerted me to a good online resource for emergency preparedness planning. Clearpath EPM has an online course for international schools. The course is 10 hours of training with a certificate. They also have some short courses and modules that are supported by the Office of Overseas Schools.
It was coincidental that we held this week a Mass Casualty Incident Drill. Thanks to the US embassy security and medical personnel, we practiced our procedures in the event of many students being injured. The training incident was a wall collapse in the fitness room and our First Responders (teachers trained in first aid) and doctors from the Tashkent International Clinic worked together to transport students from the incident to the triage area and off to hospitals or treated in the TIS Health Unit. In the After Action Review, we reviewed our Lessons Learned and will be processing them next week.
The Mass Casualty Drill is one of several scenarios we practice annually. Others include earthquake, fire, evacuation to safe zones, stand fast, lockdown, and bomb threats. I strongly believe if the students and staff are well-trained, in the case of an emergency, they will implement our procedures to keep everyone as safe as possible.