Wichita schools using Winnie-the-Pooh book to prepare children for active shooters
Parents of Wichita elementary school students will get a copy of the book in advance of a district-wide lockdown drill next week.
WICHITA — Wichita elementary schools have started using a Winnie-the-Pooh-themed book to teach young children how to “run, hide, fight” during crisis situations like a school shooting.
The nine-page “Stay Safe” booklet is being distributed to elementary school teachers in advance of a district-wide lockdown drill scheduled for next week.
“We want to make sure that our students feel confident in how they handle crisis situations,” said Terri Moses, director of safety services for the Wichita district. “And we want to make sure our parents have the information that they need to talk to students.”
The booklet uses familiar Winnie-the-Pooh characters to illustrate the “run, hide, fight” strategy that’s already taught in Wichita middle and high schools. The strategy is recommended for active shooter situations by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
“If danger is near, do not fear,” the book says. “HIDE like Pooh does until the police appear.”
It also advises students to “RUN like Rabbit” to get to a safe spot, turn off lights, lock doors and stay quiet.
“To FIGHT … is the last thing to do,” the book says. “But if danger finds us, we must defend ourselves like Kanga and Roo.”
The book does not mention guns or shooters specifically, but refers to more general dangers. It was developed by police officers and teachers and published by Praetorian Consulting, a Houston-based firm that provides security and crisis management training.
A.A. Milne’s original Winnie-the-Pooh stories, which were published in 1926, entered the public domain last year, allowing for adaptations of the characters.
The “Run, Hide, Fight” response plan gained popularity after a mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. The strategy urges people confronted by a shooter to assess the situation and respond accordingly, either by escaping to a safe place, taking cover, or attempting to disarm the intruder, using improvised weapons if that’s their only option.
Moses, the safety director, said the new booklet gives elementary school teachers a tool to initiate conversations with the district’s youngest students, starting in pre-kindergarten.
“We think it’s a great way, and an age-appropriate way, to provide information to elementary students that they didn’t have before,” she said.
Megan Weikal, principal of Gammon Elementary School, said school shootings are a difficult topic, but schools and families should talk about it.
“We do live in the world that we live in, and to ignore where we are does a disservice to our students and our community,” Weikal said. “This just empowers teachers to empower students to know what to do in a crisis situation if it occurs.”
Parents of Wichita elementary students will get a copy of the new booklet, along with information about what to do if there’s a crisis at their child’s school.
Last spring, the Dallas school district drew backlash after distributing the Winnie-the-Pooh-themed booklets to students and families. Some parents complained that the book was given out without warning or instruction, and that district officials were “tone deaf” to share it so close to the anniversary of a mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, where 19 students and two teachers were killed.
Suzanne Perez reports on education for KMUW in Wichita and the Kansas News Service. You can follow her on Twitter @SuzPerezICT.
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