Just because the message is coming from a fuzzy, honey-loving bear, doesn’t mean it will be well-received.
Elementary and pre-kindergarten students in Texas, some as young as four years old, were sent home with a cartoon book that saw Winnie-the-Pooh and his Hundred Acre Wood friends teach kids how to survive a school shooting.
The short, illustrated book called Stay Safe shows students in the Dallas Independent School District what to do if they are confronted with an active shooter. The book’s tagline is: “If there is danger, let Winnie-the-Pooh and his Crew show you what to do: Run Hide Fight.”
The book, distributed on or around May 15, caused mass upset among parents, according to the Oak Cliff Advocate Magazine, the first outlet to report the story. The school district did not tell parents about the book or provide any context, leaving many unsuspecting guardians to find the material in their child’s book bag, or to have it requested as a bedtime read.
“Run, hide, fight” is the FBI-advised protocol for how to respond to an active shooter — a phrase as familiar to some Americans as the more internationally known fire-extinguishing tactic “stop, drop and roll.”
Using illustrations, rhyming patterns and a bubbly, child-like typeface, the Winnie-the-Pooh cartoon book guides children through each step.
“If it is safe to get away, we should RUN like Rabbit instead of stay,” one passage reads.
“If danger is near, do not fear, HIDE like Pooh does until the police appear,” the book continues alongside an illustration of Pooh with his head in a pot of honey. On the same page, students are told to lock doors, turn off lights and cellphone tones and hide without making a sound.
“If danger finds us, don’t stay, run away. If we can’t get away, we have to FIGHT with all our might.”
Beside the text, Kanga and baby Roo are wearing boxing gloves.
“Like Kanga and Roo do, it is better to fight together,” the text encourages.
“When the danger is gone, we should not fuss. Instead, we wait for a teacher or the police to come find us.”
The Stay Safe book is not an official Winnie-the-Pooh product, as the A.A. Milne-created and E.H. Shepard-illustrated characters moved into the public domain in January 2022. It was published by Praetorian Consulting, a security training company. The company said the book is designed for students in kindergarten through to Grade 6.
A spokesperson for the Dallas Independent School District told the Washington Post that the “book depicts a “reality” for students, “no different than any other school district in America.”
“Recently a booklet was sent home so parents could discuss with their children how to stay safe in such cases,” the school board said. “Unfortunately, we did not provide parents any guide or context. We apologize for the confusion and are thankful to parents who reached out to assist us in being better partners.”
The cartoon book was distributed about a week before the one-year anniversary of the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, that left 19 children and two teachers dead.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, shared a photo of two pages from the book on Twitter.
“Winnie the Pooh is now teaching Texas kids about active shooters because the elected officials do not have the courage to keep our kids safe and pass common sense gun safety laws,” he wrote.
Winnie the Pooh is now teaching Texas kids about active shooters because the elected officials do not have the courage to keep our kids safe and pass common sense gun safety laws. https://t.co/PNXhIlrcxq pic.twitter.com/crPDeQ9dZm
— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) May 23, 2023
Texas has some of the loosest gun laws of all U.S. states, with restrictions continuing to relax in recent years.
In 2023 alone, there have been 24 school shootings in the U.S. that resulted in injuries or death. Since 2018, there have been 168 shootings in American schools.
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