DALLAS – Cindy Campos' 5-year-old son was so excited about the Winnie the Pooh book he got at school that he asked her to read it with him as soon as he got home. But her heart sank when she realized it was a tutorial about what to do when “danger is near,” advising kids to lock the doors, turn off the lights and quietly hide.
As they read the “Stay Safe” book the school sent home without explanation or a warning to parents, she began crying, leaving her son confused.
“It’s hard because you’re reading them a bedtime story and basically now you have to explain in this cute way what the book is about, when it’s not exactly cute,” Campos said.
She said her first-grader, who goes to the same elementary school as her pre-K son, also got a copy of the book last week. After posting about it in an online neighborhood group, she found other concerned parents whose kids had also brought the book home.
The district's decision to send kids home with the book has made waves. California’s Democratic governor, Gavin Newsom, tweeted: “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.”
It sparked enough of a reaction to warrant an explanation from the Dallas Independent School District, which said in a statement Friday that it works "hard every day to prevent school shootings" by dealing with online threats and improving security measures. It also conducts active shooter drills.
“Recently a booklet was sent home so parents could discuss with their children how to stay safe in such cases,” the district 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 district did not say how many schools and grades in the district received the books.
Campos said the book was “haunting” her and that it seemed especially “tone deaf" to send it home with kids without explanation around the time the state was marking the anniversary of last year's mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, when a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers. It also comes as Texas' Republican-controlled Legislature wraps up a session in which it rejected virtually all proposals to tighten gun laws but did pass legislation banning school libraries from having books that contain descriptions, illustrations or audio depicting sexual conduct not relevant to the required school curriculum.
Active shooter drills have become common in American schools, though there’s disagreement over whether they do more harm than good.
Campos said that although she doesn’t disagree with the book's intent, she wished it would have come with a warning to parents so that she could introduce it to her kids at the right time and in the right way. She said she has discussed school shootings with her kids, and that she might have chosen to wait to read them the book until there was another attack.
“I would have done it on my own time,” said Campos, who first spoke to the Oak Cliff Advocate.
The book’s cover says: “If there is danger, let Winnie the Pooh and his crew show you what to do.” Inside, it includes passages such as “If danger is near, do not fear. Hide like Pooh does until the police appear. Doors should be locked and the passage blocked. Turn off the light to stay out of sight.”
The book was published by Praetorian Consulting, a Houston-based firm that provides safety, security and crisis management training and services. The company, which didn't respond to messages seeking comment, says on its website that it uses age-appropriate material to teach the concepts of “run, hide, fight” — the approach authorities say civilians should take in active shooter situations.
The company also says on its website that its K-6 curriculum features the characters of Winnie the Pooh, which are now in the public domain and even featured in a recent horror movie.