Kelsey Vidal floundered during a shooter drill, spurring her to be better prepared for an active shooter situation.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on November 20, 2022. It has since been updated.
Warning: This article contains themes of gun violence that some readers may find distressing
No teacher should ever have to prepare for a shooter walking into their classroom, but in the U.S., teachers must plan and carry out shooting drills to prepare for the worst. Including the mass shooting at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas, as of June 8, 2022, the country has witnessed 27 school shootings in 2022, according to Ed Week. Kelsey Vidal, a first-grade teacher, has revealed on TikTok that she has prepared an "active shooter preparedness backpack." The 29-year-old posted a video on TikTok showing off two bags, one-handed to her by the school themselves and another one with items that she believes can help her during an active shooter situation. The post sparked debate, with many questioning why educators should be preparing for a shooter while others said it's about "facing the new reality."
The first bag "was given to us by the school," she said in the video. "This is what we use for fire drills when we practice evacuating the school for whatever kind of emergency [preparedness] they think that we need," she said, before lifting it to reveal another bag that had been collecting dust. "I hope I never have to use this one," said Vidal. "I hope it literally collects dust, like it has been, but this is my active shooter, intruder backpack." Vidal revealed that she had put together items to use in case of an "active shooter" situation. She decided on the items with the help of her mother, brother and father. Some of the items include tourniquets to stop major bleeding, pressure bandages, scissors to cut through jeans or shirts, bulletproof plates and vests and medical supplies.
She also kept a baseball bat and a door barracuda near the backpack. The door barracuda is a defensive system that locks down swinging doors within seconds. The death of two teachers and 19 students in the Texas school shooting is a reminder of what schools are up against. Vidal spoke to BuzzFeed News and revealed the moment she realized she needed to be better prepared was after they were given five minutes as part of a drill to barricade the door with the things they could get their hands on. "We all took this seriously because we knew that this unfortunately is a scary reality for teachers. We used computer cords, chairs, desks, etc., and they still were able to open the door within 10 seconds!" she recalled, panicking. "I went home freaked out about how easily they got inside. I kept thinking, 'I am not prepared and, in real life, we aren't going to be given 5 minutes to try and find things that work,'" she added. Vidal immediately spoke to her family and decided to have a separate backpack with specialized items that could help in such situations including a Kevlar vest. The Uvalde shooting shocked her as much as it did any teacher. "It has become my biggest fear as an educator. Any child, any student, should not have to die going to school [and] getting an education," she said.
As we reported, another teacher made news for taping hockey pucks under the desks of students to prepare them for an active shooter. Carly Zacharias, a high school teacher from Michigan, handed out hockey pucks to her students to defend during a possible school shooting situation. She explained how she gave students a hockey puck to use as a deterrent if they were forced to confront the shooter. "So I thought, what can I give every single student, something to prepare themselves? I thought a hockey puck," said Zacharias. She explained that she tapes a hockey puck to each of her student's desks in case of a school shooting. "That way kids can use them if they need them. Obviously, it's just a deterrent but it definitely makes us feel a little bit better," she said.
The video sparked a debate in the comments section. "It’s so heartbreaking that you even have to think about this," wrote one user. "This seems insane 😳 I live in England, some times a stray dog gets onto the school field everyone screams and gets told to go inside," another person wrote. "Everyone outside of the USA: 'Your what back?'" commented another.