Cassie Walton was was born within a year of the 1999 Colorado school shooting, and used what she remembered from active shooter drills conducted at her high school to teach her 5-year-old.
Cassie Walton was out shopping for school supplies for her soon-to-be kindergartener, and in addition to the usual new set of crayons, notebooks and pencils she had a bulletproof bag on her list. "It makes me feel very sad that we have come to this as a country and I wish I could be different," Walton, 23, told TODAY Parents, saying her biggest fear is that something will happen to her son "in a place where he is supposed to be the most safe."
Cassie really wanted to help prepare Weston, her 5-year-old son, for the start of school this year. She was born a year after the 1999 Columbine High School tragedy, which killed 12 pupils and a teacher and grew up participating in school safety exercises. She said she wanted to utilize the knowledge she had from active shooter drills at her high school, to teach her kid. "We would have threats all the time, and you'd never know which ones are serious and which ones are not serious. So you have to be prepared, no matter what, to go from zero to 100 in the blink of an eye."
Cassie, based in McAlester, Oklahoma, uploaded a now-viral TikTok in which she guides the young boy through an active shooter situation. The video posted on TikTok shows the 5-year-old son being put through a makeshift active-shooter drill. Walton, 22, said, that it gives him a fighting chance against what he could really experience inside his classroom.
In the video, Cassie can be heard in the video telling Weston what to do if a teacher tells him to go into a corner and be quiet and still. "If a teacher says, 'Weston you don't need your backpack let's get in the corner,'" Walton prompts her son. To which he replies, "I say, 'No I need it, it's bulletproof.'"
Then, Walton asks the 5-year-old what he would do if the police are outside the door, but the shooter is in his classroom. "I say, 'I'm here'," Weston replies with childlike enthusiasm. Walton replies, "Absolutely not, you don't say a word. If the shooter is in there, you don't say a word, you stay absolutely silent."
Finally, Walton asks Weston what he would do if he got outside the building, and the young boy replied he would run home. "You run as far away from the school as you can go," Walton told him. "Mom will find you."
The video has around 7 million views and has received more than 1 million likes on TikTok.
Cassie also purchased a bulletproof insert for her son's Spider-Man backpack. "I looked on Amazon and different sites, and I came across the one on the Bulletproof Zone and watched YouTube videos," Walton said. "And, sadly, sadly like the ones for kids do not go against the ones used in Uvalde. But it’s better than nothing."
Following the May 24 shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, which killed 19 kids and two teachers, schools around the country are reopening this year with a greater emphasis on security. Even with precautions, many parents are anxious about the start of the school year. "In the back of your mind, you just are always worried about it. And it's never off the table," Cassie tells ABC News. "It's always possible no matter where you live, or what kind of school you go to, you just really never know."
As one mom prepared her son to start kindergarten this month, she bought the usual school supplies for him, as well as a bulletproof backpack insert to go inside his Spider-Man bag: "You just really never know." https://t.co/C46ssuCsOd— ABC7 Eyewitness News (@ABC7) August 15, 2022
Weston had concerns while watching the terrible events unfold on television in May, Cassie told TODAY. "He could see what was going on in Texas and, as children do, he had questions, so I answered his questions (as well as) I could and then told him about my school experience," Cassie explained, adding that she sought to use terms that a child could comprehend without getting into too much detail.
Cassie Walton's post drew hundreds of comments on TikTok, with many other parents expressing concern about their children. Some also stated that they have discussed probable school shootings with their children at home. "I just wanted to show that even though it is sad, it's starting to be our reality with the way things are going," Walton said. "There are more and more and more shootings every single year, and it's better to be prepared than to be sorry."