A TikTok user called Jamie shared the steps she takes to keep her son safe from school shootings.
They included not buying light-up shoes and teaching the boy to be skeptical of fire alarms.
A security expert weighed in on which of the tips are most helpful.
A TikTok user calling herself Jamie went viral after sharing the steps she's taking in hopes of keeping her first-grade son safe from school shooters. Guns are the leading cause of death for children, and the US had 647 mass shootings last year, so it's understandable that parents like Jamie are desperate to keep their children safe.
"No doubt, school shootings are having a massive impact on how parents safeguard their children from danger," says Gene Petrino, a retired SWAT commander and co-founder of Survival Response LLC, which provides training for responding to active shooter situations.
And yet, "due to the horrific nature of these incidents, many people allow their emotions to sway their opinions on prevention and response," Petrino said.
It's normal for parents like Jamie to want to feel that they can take measures to protect their children — but some of her tips have limited impact, Petrino says, since there's little data to back them up.
Here's which of Jamie's tips Petrino recommends parents follow and one thing he wishes more students would do.
'I started taking a picture of my son every day before school'
Jamie starts her video by mentioning that she takes a picture of her son every day so that she has one to show first responders in case of an emergency. That's a great choice, Petrino says, and one that's easy for parents to implement.
"That picture could help speed up the reunification of parent and child," he said. That's helpful not only in school shootings but also if you become separated from your child in public or if they're abducted.
'I want him to be the last in line if the fire alarm is pulled'
Jamie says she tells her son to be last in line if he hears the fire alarm go off at school. That's because, she says, "statistically it is a higher chance that an active shooter is pulling the alarm to lure the children out than an actual fire."
But that's not true, Petrino says. There are well-known examples of shooters pulling fire alarms, including the Columbine shooting in 1999 and the Parkland shooting in 2018.
And yet, "Active shooters typically do not pull the fire alarm," Petrino said. "Most other incidents of fire alarm activation came from either the fire sprinklers struck by a bullet or the percussion of the gunshot activating the fire alarm."
There's not necessarily harm in telling your child to stick to the back of the line, Petrino adds, but statistically, it's not likely to increase their safety.
'I refuse to get my son light up shoes'
Children are taught to run, hide and fight during active shooter situations. And hiding saved at least one child during last year's Uvalde shooting. But fun-loving light shoes can be a giveaway to attackers.
"He can't hide in a closet if his shoes are lighting up," Jamie said of her son.
Petrino agrees, saying that light-up shoes could tip off a shooter to where students are hiding.
'I'm adding a bulletproof insert to my kid's backpack'
Jamie plans to integrate a bulletproof plate into her son's backpack during the next school year, she said. But the idea of an item being "bulletproof" is misleading, according to Petrino. Many bulletproof plates are only rated to stop bullets from handguns, which are rarely used in school shootings.
"They will not stop a rifle round," Petrino said, which are more common among mass shooters.
In addition, "a backpack with ballistic protection will only help if the child knows how to use it," he said. "It is not a complete protective device."
Parents and kids should understand the limitations of bulletproof items before spending money on them, he says.
Petrino wishes more students would learn the signs of violence
One of the best things students can do to protect themselves from school shootings is to stop a shooter before they start. That begins with knowing the warning signs of school violence, including bullying, withdrawing socially, making threats, and being cruel to animals.
"In that case, there is a greater chance that somebody can stop these incidents before they happen, and the potential shooter can get the help they need," Petrino said.
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