The One About School Safety and Quaker Values

Faculty and administrators across the nation are debating the best way to keep students safe should there ever be a person in their school who means to do harm.

Recently, “Run, Hide, Fight” has been described by many security professionals as best practice and has become part of the training protocol for many institutions and work places. I was asked whether Friends Schools, given our peace testimony, could consider adopting a protocol that involves “fight.”

I do not believe the “fight” element of RHF should be considered unQuakerly or otherwise inappropriate (with obvious caveats around age and other circumstances).

Promotion of peace and the practice of pacifism are deeply-held Quaker values.  They are on full display during times of war.  The Religious Society of Friends is recognized by many selective service boards as one of the Peace Churches, and its members were routinely granted conscientious objector status.  Quakers are known for practicing nonviolent civil disobedience to protest injustice, even when these activities are certain to place them in harm’s way.  The Civil Rights movement in the 1960s embraced nonviolent resistance, famously demonstrated by citizens linking arms and walking into lines of police officers swinging clubs. The independence movements in India and South Africa and societies around the world have realized the profound effects of such actions. Their contributions to peaceful and productive change is undisputed.

Confronting an active shooter is a different kettle of fish. Countering aggression in a way that distracts, disarms, or even immobilizes the attacker in order to save your life or someone else’s is not a violation of any of the values that we hold dear.  Nonviolent protest against institutional injustice is a tactic to further a cause and is undertaken intentionally to promote a general good.  This cannot be compared with acts of self-preservation which may be called upon, as a last resort, when confronting a dangerous individual.

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