The lesson 1 Twitter hashtag can teach us after the L.A. school bomb threat.

Yesterday, thousands of children and teens in Los Angeles woke up to the news that school was closed.

But the news didn't carry with it the normal glee of an unexpected snow day or an early closing before a holiday.



Los Angeles city school buses. Photo by David McNew/Getty Images.

Los Angeles Unified School District, the second-largest public school system in the country, was shut down because of a bomb threat.

Buses that had already started on their routes returned to parking lots, sitting empty for the day. Some students who hadn't heard the news in time arrived on foot or by car with friends only to discover abandoned campuses and their classmates being sent back home. Over 900 public schools and 187 public charter schools in the system halted operations, leaving 640,000 students with no place to go.

What kind of warning caused this type of mass response?

Details are still unclear, but the threat arrived by email to several school board members and suggested that many schools within the district were being targeted. It mentioned backpacks and packages being left on campus. City officials in L.A., not wanting to take any chances in the aftermath of the San Bernardino shooting, reacted swiftly and cautiously. More than 2,700 officers were dispatched for walk-throughs at more than 1,500 closed school sites in searches for explosives or weapons.

The same threat was also issued to the New York City public school system, but officials there didn't think it was credible enough to close schools.

Photo by Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images.

Around 12:30 p.m., the threat was determined to be "a hoax or something designed to disrupt school districts in large cities," according to the House Intelligence Committee. But by then, L.A., having already made a difficult choice, watched chaos ensue.

Many parents had been forced to find alternative child care or miss work (likely an unthinkable option for many low-wage workers). Some parents were left looking for their children they had sent off to school that morning. Traffic was gridlocked.

And if that weren't enough, students who depend on school meal programs were facing a day without breakfast or lunch.

That is, until concerned L.A. residents went into action.

By mid-morning, hundreds of people were using the hashtag #LALunch to ask restaurants to offer free meals to the more than three-quarters of the district's students who qualify for free or reduced-price meals.

And some restaurants happily obliged:

This swift and thoughtful effort reminded me of a comforting principle that we've seen play out time and time again:

Most people hope that one day love will conquer the fear caused by violence and prevent these acts from occurring in the first place.

But love is also there in the meantime. It's what we can turn to —and practice — when the fear disrupts us.

When threats and violence make us uncomfortable and shake up our day, love isn't just the power that we hope will stop bad things from happening.

It's how we step up at the very moments that we feel most powerless.

I don't know about you, it's hard to process all the terrorism and violence, guns and bomb threats. And I don't always know how to deal with a world that can look eerily similar to 1950s America with its hate speech and bomb drills. We don't always know what to do about the big things.

But on days when thousands of parents are terrified and children are forced out of a place that should be a safe haven, we can, at the very least, provide lunch, offer to watch our neighbor's daughter, keep our libraries open just a little longer, and be flexible and understanding with our employees and colleagues who are parents.

It's the small things that remind us of who we are — and who we must be.

It's what people did in Baltimore when local libraries at the epicenter of protests and riots refused to close, instead providing a safe harbor and support for those who needed it.

It's what Parisians did using the hashtag #PorteOuverte to open their homes to those seeking refuge and safety in the aftermath of last month's shootings.

Edward R. Roybal Learning Center during the shutdown. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images.)

It's a reminder that we can, even if just for a moment, pour our energy into what is simple and comforting and good.

And that is lending a helping hand and trying our best to love the fear right out of the children who will go to school tomorrow — and the day after — with a heightened awareness of just how unsafe the world can be.

If bomb threats and school closings are a sign of these scary times times, let's not forget that these small acts of kindness and compassion are, too.

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On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

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Young people today are facing what seems to be greater exposure to complex issues like mental health, bullying, and youth violence. As a result, teachers are required to be well-versed in far more than school curriculum to ensure students are prepared to face the world inside and outside of the classroom. Acting as more than teachers, but also mentors, counselors, and cheerleaders, they must be equipped with practical and relevant resources to help their students navigate some of the more complicated social issues – though access to such tools isn't always guaranteed.

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Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

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Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

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"Men as well as women tend to establish the worth of individual women primarily by the way their body looks, research shows. We do not do this when we evaluate men," Naomi Ellemers Ph.D. wrote in Psychology Today.

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