Toxic stress develops in the context of intense and ongoing stress that activates a child’s stress-response system. It occurs in situations lacking the support of parents and other caring adults and can lead to an overactive response system and increased stress hormones, which change the structure of the brain and affect learning, social relations, emotions, judgment, and impulse control. Could active-shooter drills, as currently practiced, provide a culture for the growth of toxic stress in children? The more we make people aware of the potential consequences of these drills, the better we can protect the mental and physical health of our children.

Ms. Christakis writes about the “adultification” of children. This includes, for example, the imposition on children of the adult task of disaster preparedness and response. The adultification of children is an important concept to consider; in this milieu of violence and active-shooter drills, let us also consider the traumatization of our children.

Mary E. Woesner, M.D.
New York, N.Y.

Behind the Art

Members of The Masthead, The Atlantic’s membership program, can read exclusive stories such as the one excerpted here, which provides insight into the editorial-art process. To join, visit theatlantic.com/membership/join.

At the most basic level, editorial art exists to grab your attention. If the art persuades you to pause, the words get the chance to do their job. Editorial art can signal an incredible array of detail. Does the story feature a particular person, time period, or topic? Is the tone wry, somber, shocking, or uplifting?

Consider Edmon de Haro’s illustration for “Not Just a Drill.” De Haro quickly communicates the topic of the story by using the ubiquitous school-crossing sign. Then he signals that something deeply familiar has become profoundly unsettling just by adding bulletproof vests. The sign that once cautioned drivers (Watch out for students) now cautions children: Watch out for gunmen.

This is editorial art at its finest. De Haro not only captures the topic and the mood, but also demonstrates the writer’s argument: Our current system puts the onus on children, not adults, to stay safe at school.

Katie Martin
Associate Art Director, The Atlantic

The Big Question

On Twitter, we asked people to pick their favorite reader responses to April’s Big Question. Here’s how they voted.

Q: What was the best sequel in history?

36% The Godfather: Part II

35% The Empire Strikes Back

18% The Odyssey

11% The New Testament

Story Update:

“The Fertility Doctor’s Secret,” by Sarah Zhang (April), stated that Donald Cline had fathered at least 48 children with his patients. In mid-March, The Atlantic learned that the number of biological children had grown to at least 50, confirmed by DNA tests. Some of the children are advocating for a fertility-fraud bill, which has now passed the Indiana Senate.

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