Students everywhere are familiar with emergency drills — for fires, earthquakes and disasters in general. But in Mexico they practice gunfight drills.
Students at an elementary school in Guerrero participated in drills yesterday designed to prepare them for the eventuality of a gunfight spilling over into their classrooms or playground.
Teachers at the Antonio A. Guerrero Primary School in the state capital Chilpancingo carried out the mock exercises with the support of the children’s parents, but neither education nor security authorities were present.
Some teachers directed students to lie flat on the classroom floor to avoid the possibility of being hit by a stray bullet while others employed different approaches, designed to calm the fears children would face in a violent situation.
Some used singing to drown out the sound of gunfire; other teachers simply talked to their students about the possibility of crime impinging on their school.
The facility is currently occupying a provisional site on a fairground in the west of the city because its permanent facilities were damaged in last September’s earthquake.
The fairground is located in front of sporting facilities where several violent incidents involving suspected members of criminal gangs have occurred.
At the end of last year, a severed human head was placed on an electrical transformer that is clearly visible from the school’s main exit.
An armed attack also took place on soccer fields opposite the school’s temporary facilities and two motorcyclists were recently shot and killed in neighboring streets.
In addition, two men were forcibly disappeared late last year while attending a Christmas fair at the site where the school is now situated. Their bodies, which presented signs of torture, were found on January 3.
Consequently, the principal said it was important for the school’s 587 students to know what to do in the case of a risky situation.
“The important thing is for children to be able to protect themselves,” Policarpo García Ramírez said.
Despite the risk of violence, García said the fairground was the most suitable site on which to place temporary classrooms until construction of a new school building is completed. He stressed that no shootouts have occurred since the school was set up there.
In the aftermath of September’s second earthquake, thousands of students couldn’t return to school because of threats made by organized crime groups and parents’ fears for their safety.
The entire Chilpancingo municipal police force was removed from duty last month for suspected involvement in criminal activity.
However, while the possibility of gang violence invading schools is real, the possibility of a student attacking others with a gun is statistically very low.
School shootings in Mexico are extremely uncommon, although not completely unheard of.
A 15-year-old student shot a teacher and three students at a school in Monterrey, Nuevo León, in January 2017 before turning the gun on himself.
Source: Milenio (sp)