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Puerto Vallarta News NetworkNews Around the Republic of Mexico 

Mexico Schools Teach 'Shootout Drills'
email this pageprint this pageemail usChris Hawley - USA Today
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July 08, 2010

A police officer teaches students how to crawl to safety at the Colegio Mexico in Chilpancingo, Mexico. (Maxine Park/Guerrero Public Safety Department)
Mexico City — Schools across Mexico are teaching students to dive to the floor and cover their heads as the violence-torn country sees more urban gunfights between drug gangs.

At least nine shootouts have erupted in school zones since mid-October, three of them in the past month. On June 15, soldiers and gunmen battled for an hour 60 feet from a preschool in the central town of Taxco.

Several Mexican states require "shootout drills" and incorporate them into summer teacher-training courses, which will begin next week. School ends Friday in most of Mexico.

"We're in a situation like nothing we've ever lived through before, and we need to make sure the children are safe," says Juan Gallardo, director of school safety in the northern state of Tamaulipas.

Drug-related violence has reached record levels in Mexico since President Felipe Calderón launched a military crackdown on the cartels in late 2006. As of Monday, there had been 5,775 drug-related killings in 2010, up from 2,275 in all of 2007, according to an unofficial tally by the Reforma newspaper.

Shootouts have become common as drug gangs ambush government forces and each other in an attempt to control smuggling routes and drug sales. Last week, 21 gunmen died in a shootout between gangs in a rural area near the Arizona border.

Most attacks have not targeted schools, but students can be caught in the crossfire. On March 19, two college students were killed by stray bullets as they left a study session in the prestigious Tec de Monterrey university in the northern city of Monterrey.

Gunbattles erupted near public schools on June 18 in the western town of Bellavista and on June 24 in the northern city of Apodaca. In Apodaca, police evacuated two elementary schools and a preschool.

After the battle June 15 near the preschool in Taxco, the southern state of Guerrero held shootout drills in several schools and ordered training for all 52,400 teachers in the state.

New guidelines instruct teachers to take all students indoors, lock classroom doors and keep the children away from windows. Children should lie on the floor and cover their heads with their hands to protect themselves from flying glass or chips of concrete. Above all, children should not take pictures or video of the shootout.

"The first thing the kids want to do is take pictures to post on their social networks," says Erika Arciniega, director of crime prevention for the Guerrero state police. "We don't want them to become targets."

In Nuevo León state, where college students were killed in a crossfire in March, education officials are preparing a video teaching children how to protect themselves in shootouts, state Education Secretary José González said. Officials distribute manuals with instructions for surviving a shootout.

"Upon hearing gunshots near the school zone, the teacher will immediately order all students to lie with their chests to the floor," the guide says. "Avoid visual contact with the aggressors."

Some of the students' parents don't think such training is a good idea, says Angel Carrillo, principal of the Rafael Briceño Elementary School in the western city of Colima.

"Some of the parents think it scares the kids too much," he says.

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the included information for research and educational purposes • m3 © 2009 BanderasNews ® all rights reserved • carpe aestus