A protester was handed this lollipop at the March for Our Lives. The reason is chilling.

In the second grade, a dentist pulled my tooth with no anesthetic. It had been hanging by a thread, and while I remember the pain being immense at the time, it was quickly subdued by a visit to the dental office's toy box, where I found a sticker and a small bottle of bubbles.

The dentist handed over my tooth, too, and told me to put it under my pillow. The next morning, it had been replaced with a dollar bill. Rewards for making it through an uncomfortable situation with as much strength as my 7-year-old self could muster.


But a viral tweet over the weekend revealed that rewards aren't quite so simple for kids right now.

Among thousands of reactions to the March for Our Lives that poured in on social media, one Boston librarian’s experience painted a clear and sinister picture of how school shootings and lack of meaningful gun control has affected even the youngest students.

On Twitter, Laura Koenig posted a picture of a lollipop a 6-year-old handed to her. The simple message attached read: "This is the prize I get for staying silent during active shooter drills."

The aim of the lollipops — part of a mission called Lollipops for Lockdown — is ostensibly a good idea. It’s a way to keep kids calm as they go through the harrowing experience of an active-shooter drill, a way to train kids to stay quiet as they wait for the all-clear.

It’s certainly better than the idea that schools should arm students with rocks, or as Rick Santorum suggested, that kids should be trained in CPR instead of pushing for stricter gun laws.

Still, the reward is a band-aid, a stopgap measure that puts the onus entirely on kids for their own safety rather than a wake-up call that things must change.

As an article on Scary Mommy points out, lollipops are given to kids for a multitude of reasons, and to associate these childhood rewards with active-shooter drills is more than just "bone-chilling." The image it draws up, Cassandra Stone writes, is "of a classroom full of first graders sucking on these lollipops while hiding from a shooter on a murderous rampage is so jarring it makes me physically ill."

As reactions to Koenig’s tweet came in, it became clear that the lollipops are problematic on a huge scale.

One teacher pointed out that she keeps lollipops in the closet so that kids "can suck on them and try to keep quiet" in order to not be found.

A father chimed in on the thread to say that at his kids' school, teachers had to ask parents to chip in for the lollipops because the school wouldn’t pay for them. What is the government considering instead? Earmarking millions of dollars that would go not to education but to arming teachers — a move that’s already been decried as disastrous.

But perhaps the most frightening thing about the lollipop movement is the fact that the idea that schools aren’t safe places — and wouldn’t become any more safe with more guns in place — is becoming more and more normalized in the eyes of children.

A protestor at the March for Our Lives. Photo by Alex Edelman/AFP/Getty Images.

As Stone recounts in her post, at a recent family gathering, the lights were turned off in the basement so the kids could play video games in comfort, and one child remarked, with no shock or surprise, "Oh, this is just like a lockdown drill."

This shouldn’t be happening. But it is. And it’s getting worse.

In a recent piece, my colleague Annie Reneau recounted the way that children are being prepared for active shooters invading a place that kids should feel safe.

One school saw police officers shooting blanks during a drill to drive home the point of what a real gun sounds like. In another instance, a teacher told a student who coughed during a drill that if a real shooter had been on the scene, the entire class would have been dead.

Protestors at the March for Our Lives hold up photos of students killed in gun violence. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

It’s terrifying to think of as an adult. As a child, I wouldn’t have been able to sleep that night. I would have been petrified to return to school knowing that the worst thing that could happen wasn’t a bad grade on a math test, but the possibility of my mistake — an involuntary physical response — sealing the fate of the people with whom I ate lunch and played tag on the playground.

That’s why these lollipops, no matter how well-meaning, can’t be seen as a triumph.  

Instead, they should be seen for what they really are: A clear message that the only way we can keep our kids safe is by changing the way we think about and handle gun control in our country.

Most importantly, we must listen to the kids who are leading the charge of the #NeverAgain movement. As they walk out of classes in protest of the government's inaction, as they crowd the streets begging the government to value their lives, we need to heed what they’re saying rather than placate them with solutions that put the responsibility for their safety against guns squarely on their shoulders.

Children want safety. They want an education. And they need a place where they can get both without having to learn that lollipops are a means of keeping them alive, that their teachers are armed, or where the bucket of rocks they’re meant to throw at an active shooter is stored. Only widespread gun reform can change that.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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via The BC Cancer Foundation

Testicular cancer typically affects men between the ages of 16 and 44 and is the most common solid tumor to occur in men of this age group. These tumors grow rapidly and can double in size in just 10 to 30 days.

The disease is potentially fatal if not discovered early and accounts for about 11%-13% of all cancer deaths of men between the ages of 15-35. An estimated 9,60 people were diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2020, resulting in around 440 deaths.

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2020 was difficult (to say the least). The year was full of life changes, losses, and lessons as we learned to navigate the "new normal." You may have questions about what the changes and challenges of 2020 mean for your taxes. That's where TurboTax Live comes in, making it easy to connect with real tax experts to help with your taxes – or even do them for you, start to finish.

Not only has TurboTax Live helped millions of people get their taxes done right, but this year they've also celebrated people who uplifted their communities during a difficult time by surprising them with "little lifts" to help out even more.

Here are a few of their stories:


Julz, hairdresser and salon owner

"As a hairdresser and salon owner, 2020 was extremely challenging," says Julz. "Being a hairdresser has historically been a recession-proof industry, but we've never faced global shut down due to health risk, or pandemic, not in my lifetime. And for the first time, hairdressers didn't have job security."

Julz had to shut down her salon and go on unemployment benefits for the first time. She also had to figure out how she was going to support herself, her staff and her business during this difficult time. But many other beauty industry professionals didn't have access to the resources they needed, so Julz decided to help.

"My business partner and I began teaching basic financial literacy to other beauty industry professionals," she says. "Transitioning our business from behind the chair to an online academy was a challenge we tackled head-on so that we could move hairdressers into this new space of education, and create a more accessible curriculum to better serve our industry.

Julz connected with a TurboTax Live expert who helped her understand how unemployment affected her taxes and gave her guidance on filing quarterly estimated taxes for her small business. "I was terrified to sit at a computer and tackle this mess of receipts," Julz says, so "it was great to have some virtual handholding to walk me through each question."

In addition to giving Julz the personalized tax advice she needed, TurboTax Live surprised her with a "little lift" that empowered her to help even more beauty professionals. "When my tax expert Diana surprised me with a little lift, I was moved to tears," says Julz. "With that little lift, I was able to establish a scholarship fund to help get other hairdressers the education they deserve."


Alana, new mom

Alana welcomed her first child in 2020. "I think my biggest challenge was figuring out how to be a mom, with no guidance," she says. "My original plan was to have my mom by my side, teaching me the ropes, but because of COVID, she wasn't able to come out here."

She was also without a job for most of 2020 and struggled to find something new.

So, Alana took it as a sign: she decided to launch her own business so she could support her new baby, and that's exactly what she did. She started a feel-good company that specializes in creating affirmation card decks — and she's currently in the process of starting a second, video-editing business.

TurboTax Live answered Alana's questions about her taxes and gave her some much-needed advice as she prepared to launch her businesses. Thanks to their "little lift," they provided her with a little emotional support too.

"I got my mom a plane ticket to finally [have her] meet [my daughter] for her first birthday," Alana says. "I was also able to get a new computer," which helped her invest in her new business and work on her video editing skills. "It's helped my family and me so much," she says.


Michael, science teacher

When schools shut down across the country last year, Michael had to learn how to adapt to a virtual classroom.

"As a teacher, I had to completely revamp everything," he says, so that he could keep his students engaged while teaching online. "At the beginning, it was a nightmare because I had no idea. I had to go from A-Z within a couple of weeks."

Michael's TurboTax Live expert answered his questions about how working from home affected his taxes and helped him uncover surprising tax deductions. To top it all off, his expert surprised him with brand new science equipment and supplies, which allowed him to create an entire line of classes on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. "Now I can truly potentially reach millions of children with my lessons," he says. "I would never have taken that leap if not for the little lift from TurboTax Live."



Ricky, motivational youth speaker

As a motivational speaker, Ricky was used to doing his job in person, but, he says, "when COVID-19 hit, it altered my ability to travel and visit schools in person [because] schools moved to fully virtual or hybrid models."

He knew he had to pivot — so he began offering small virtual group workshops for student leadership groups at middle and high schools.

"This allowed me to work with student leaders to plan how they would continue making a positive impact on their school community," he says. He wasn't sure how being remote would affect his taxes, but TurboTax Live Self-Employed gave him the advice and answers that he needed to keep more money in his pocket at tax time — and the little lift he received from them has helped him serve even more students.

"[It] has been a major blessing," he says "There will be multiple schools and student groups from across the country that I can hold leadership workshops with to empower them with the tools to be inspirational leaders in their school, community, and world."

Plus, he says, it was great knowing he had an expert to help him figure out how being remote affected his taxes. "I felt confident and assured in the process of filing my taxes knowing I had an expert working with me, says Ricky. "There were things my expert knew that I would not have considered when filing on my own."

Filing your taxes doesn't have to be intimidating, especially after a year like 2020. TurboTax Live experts can give you the "little lift" you need to get your taxes done. File with the help of an expert or let an expert file for you! Go to TurboTax Live to get started.