Texas schoolchildren as young as four years old are being given Winnie-the-Pooh cartoon books, teaching them to “run, hide, fight” if a gunman enters their building.
Parents and teachers in the Dallas area have expressed alarm and concern that the Stay Safe book, produced by a law enforcement consulting firm in Houston, has been sent home in the backpacks of children in pre-kindergarten and elementary classes.
The book features the honey-loving bear created by AA Milne and illustrator EH Shepard instructing kids about how to react to a mass shooting. It is not an official production, Winnie-the-Pooh has been in the public domain since 1 January 2022.
The subtitle to the Stay Safe book is: “If there is danger, let Winnie-the-Pooh and his Crew show you what to do: Run Hide Fight.”
Run, hide, fight are the tactics advised by the FBI “should the unthinkable occur”.
Inside pages of the book, featuring other characters from the Hundred Acre Wood, tell kids: “If it is safe to get away, we should RUN like Rabbit instead of stay … If danger is near, do not fear, HIDE like Pooh does until the police appear.”
The “hide” page has a drawing of Pooh burying his head in a pot of honey.
On the following page, Kanga and baby Roo are shown wearing boxing gloves. The text says: “If danger finds us, don’t stay, run away. If we can’t get away, we have to FIGHT with all our might.”
The book was given to children in Dallas-area schools on Monday without discussion or comment either with teachers or the families who received it. The move came on the week of the first anniversary of Uvalde, the mass shooting in a Texas elementary school in which 19 children and two teachers were killed.
A teacher from a Dallas elementary school of about 500 students told the Guardian she found the book “terribly disturbing”. She had been given a stack of copies, she said, to give to each child in her class.
“I found it extremely disturbing, and was very uncomfortable with the whole contents of the book,” the teacher said, requesting anonymity.
The teacher added that she was troubled by the distribution of a Winnie-the-Pooh book at a time when Republican politicians in Texas were loosening gun laws.
“The fact that people think it’s a better idea to put out this book to a child rather than actually take any actions to stop shootings from happening in our schools, that really bothers me. It makes me feel so angry, so disappointed.
“It’s a year since Uvalde, and nothing has been done other than this book. That is putting it on the kids.”
Parents also expressed distress that their children brought the book home without any further instruction in the week of the Uvalde anniversary.
The Democratic governor of California, Gavin Newsom, went further, saying the book illustrated the cowardice of the Republican-controlled legislature in Texas.
“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 said on social media.
Texas has some of the most lax gun laws in the US. In 2021, after mass shootings in El Paso and Odessa which killed 30 people, the Republican governor, Greg Abbott, enacted a law allowing Texans to carry concealed handguns in public without a license.
As part of the Republican-led charge towards censorship in schools, meanwhile, Texas has banned more books that address LGTBQ+ issues, race, gender and abortion than any other state.
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