We can tell our children that sometimes kids like to joke or brag about having or using guns or bombs or about hurting animals or people. Most of the time, they are just pretending, but once in a while, they are not. If someone is talking like this, this person might have big problems. Young people need to know how to get away from anyone who makes them uncomfortable without saying what they think. This might mean that they have to lie to stay safe and say, “Of course I won’t tell.” or even, “Yes, I think that's cool.” They might have to agree with the person who is being weird or scary, even with a big insult like saying, “Yes, you’re right, my mom is a creep (or worse).”
It is urgent that, if someone is acting in a way which could be dangerous, children go an adult they trust and say something like, “This is about my safety and about the safety of others here at our school. I need you to promise to protect me from other people knowing that I am the one who is telling you this. I want you to call my parents (or another safe adult) right away so they can be with me.”
If children don’t feel safe with any adult at school, it is important that they tell their parents or another safe adult as soon as they can. The school needs to know if there is possible danger. In some situations it may be necessary to make a telephone call to the school anonymously--which means not telling your name--to someone in charge, like the principal. Anonymous telephone calls or notes will only be taken seriously if there are as many specifics as possible included in the message.
Most children want to know what to do if the worst happens. It is less upsetting to imagine a plan than to keep imagining disaster. We can say something like, “If you see someone with a gun or a knife, or hear popping noises like firecrackers when you weren’t expecting to, go away from the person or the noise as quickly and quietly as you can. Try to get out of the building as far from the danger as possible. If you can’t get out, look for a place to hide which covers up all of you. As soon as you safely can, find an adult you trust to go to for help." All children should know how to call 911; their full name, address, and telephone number; and how to use different types of telephones.