What Do We Do When Kids Show More Courage than Police?

By: Tim Elmore

Did you hear what just happened? Last week, Girl Scouts of the USA posthumously awarded ten-year-old Amerie Jo Garza of Uvalde, Texas, one of the highest honors bestowed in Girl Scouting: the “Bronze Cross.” Notice—the honor was given to Amerie Jo after she died.


The Bronze Cross is awarded for saving or attempting to save a life at the risk of the Girl Scout’s own life. Sort of like a soldier on a battlefield. 


In many ways, this illustrates a growing reality in our nation today. First, children are being given posthumous awards. How sad that so many are dying while attempting to save a classmate’s life during a school shooting. Mass shootings are increasing at an alarming rate. In fact, there have been at least 12 mass shootings in the week following the Robb Elementary School massacre. We’ve had more mass shootings in the United States this year than we have had days in the year. 


Second, this little girl, so young that she was not even in middle school, was attempting to save lives, and risking her own life while police were still outside. Story after story has been written speculating why they didn’t move in, and I read one account where a parent asked an officer why he didn’t enter the school building, and he responded, “Because I don’t want to get shot.” 


Tired of Another School Shooting Story

I know, I know. You’re probably weary of reading another post about the Robb Elementary School shooting. Trust me, I am too. But I am not weary because I don’t care anymore. Like you, I care very much about kids and what happens at schools. I grieve the 19 children and two teachers who lost their lives. We all know what happened. 


This post, however, is about what didn’t happen. 


The Uvalde case is another failure on the part of our institutions. While the shooter stood outside firing his gun into the air for twelve minutes, the doors remained unlocked and no police showed up or took action. Then, for almost an hour, the teachers and children fended for themselves as the armed teen walked in and began mowing down victims. As I understand it, the police and border patrol remained outside, waiting for directions to move in and stop the mass murders. But rest assured, they were not idle. They were busy arresting or pepper spraying parents who wanted to go in to save the lives of their children. While we may argue it’s not strategic for parents to go in unarmed, it is a natural response if your child is inside. 


Maybe I am oversimplifying this issue, and I realize I’m venting here. But it seems kids, teachers and parents were all trying to save lives, while the police waited outside for safer conditions. Something’s wrong with this picture. 


But wait, you say. This is an isolated incident where security officers acted this way.


I wish that were true, but it’s not. Do you remember the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in 2018?  Scot Peterson was the security guard stationed at the school to prevent such massacres. What did he do? As the shooter made his way around the campus, Peterson moved away to a “place of greater safety” outside the building. Scot Peterson was later tried and found guilty of negligence.  


Once again, I recognize I am venting here.


I am wondering, however, why I so often see adults acting like kids while kids are acting like adults. Too frequently, people from my generation’s institutions are failing tangibly. Too many Boomers and Gen Xers are uncivil on social media, cannot compromise with someone they disagree with, cannot seem to balance a federal budget, find it impossible to keep a marriage together or raise healthy children… And when it’s dangerous, we wait until things are safer before we act. David Polansky, a research fellow at The Institute for Peace & Diplomacy, wrote on Twitter, “I don’t wish to sound apocalyptic about this, but one has the sense that at present our society is simultaneously characterized by wildly disproportionate accountability for trivial transgressions and zero accountability for profound institutional failure.”


I am searching my soul right now. I am asking myself questions like: Am I modeling the life I want the next generation to emulate? Do my words, actions and attitudes reflect the example I would want all leaders, educators, and coaches to display? Do I act honorably and heroically in times of risk, or do I shrink from danger? And finally, are young generations angry right now at our institutions because they see so much failure on our part?


It’s time we show the way.

What Do We Do When Kids Show More Courage than Police?