Crime & Justice

As risks to kids grow, calls mount for shootout drills at Mexican schools

By Daniel Sanchez

Hermosillo, Mexico, Oct 25 (EFE).- An elementary school teacher in the northwestern Mexican state of Sonora was sanctioned earlier this month for conducting a drill in which his students ducked for cover from a mock gang shootout.

But some of his colleagues have come to his defense and say the drills are needed due to high levels of violence in the area.

The teacher also has received support from parents and other community members in a southwestern section of that state where organized crime-related homicides are commonplace.

The controversy erupted when Sonora’s Education and Culture Secretariat announced a week ago that it condemned and would punish a teacher for organizing a drill to teach his students how to protect themselves if bullets start flying near their “24 de febrero” school in the city of Guaymas.

“Improvised actions confuse, endanger and leave minors exposed on social media, and we won’t allow that,” the secretariat said in a statement after a video of the drill was uploaded to social media.

But teachers say they have not received training in how to deal with public safety risks in that state, which ranks seventh nationally in homicides in 2022 with 1,284 murders registered by the federal government through September.

“We don’t really have any indications to follow,” Leslie Godoy, a teacher at the “Mario Silva Cortes” elementary school in the nearby city of Empalme, told Efe.

Godoy, who called the Guaymas teacher’s actions “very good and very admirable,” teaches in a school zone where a shooting last Thursday left one dead and two wounded,

One of the survivors of that machine-gun attack on an SUV hid in an elementary school where children were lying face-down on the floor.

“Days before, there was another incident of the same magnitude, but it was a little bit removed from the school. Thank God we were all inside the classroom and took fast measures, all on the floor. We waited for the gunshots to subside and calmed down the children and their parents,” Brizzaida Lopez, principal of the C.A.I.C. Arcoiris kindergarten in Empalme, told Efe.

Although Mexican army soldiers and the National Guard, a military force with law-enforcement duties, announced an operation, no special police presence was notable the following day and the parents kept their children at home.

The principal of the “Mario Silva Cortes” school, Heraclio Ortiz, said the “situation is really bad, and day-in, day-out you’re hearing gunfire.”

“We feel unsafe with these violent incidents,” he said in an interview, adding that the school opened its doors after the shooting but that only two children were in attendance.

Such is the reality of being a student in the Sonoran municipalities of Cajeme, Guaymas and Empalme, which Mexico’s Public Security Secretariat says are areas with high incidences of homicide.

The violence is attributed to gangs battling for control of drug-trafficking routes to the United States.

But even though authorities organize earthquake and fire drills, no similar exercises are conducted to prepare students for potential gun battles.

“We have to create awareness of these situations (shootouts) that aren’t going to end, and above all we need to prepare ourselves for these events that are happening,” Lopez, the kindergarten principal, said. EFE


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