School Shootings: The Heart of the Issue

I have thus far been silent on the tragedy in Florida, for no other reason than lacking the time to sit down and write the post I have been intending.  But my Facebook feed continues to be monopolized by the ensuing debates with my friends weighing in on all sides.  The main debate of course centers around the Second Amendment and now the question of arming teachers has also been brought to the fore.

What I find interesting is that a key element of these shootings has been left out: school security.  I’ve been in education for thirteen years now and I can tell you that WE AS A SCHOOL SYSTEM ARE NOT DOING ENOUGH TO PROTECT OUR STUDENTS.

School security is a joke. The following is a summary of the security I have witnessed in the three different schools I have worked in over the past thirteen years.

Exhibit A:  Metal Detectors.

Sure, there are metal detectors and the kids have to walk through them every morning.  Theoretically bags are searched and theoretically pockets are checked.  But security at morning intake is hasty and cursory and performed not by trained professionals but instead by school staff such as teachers and counselors.  Hundreds of children need to be searched and filtered into the building as quickly as possible and therefore the searches are hasty and sloppy at best.  A weapon could easily be carefully concealed inside of a book bag and overlooked.  The bags don’t go through the metal detectors at all.  They are merely opened and glanced at.  If they have a lot of stuff in them, no one bothers to dig through; there just isn’t time for that.

But clear backpacks would certainly help mitigate this problem, right?  Sure.  Except not all schools require clear backpacks.  Two of the three schools I’ve worked in didn’t.  If the district requires then then it isn’t being enforced from campus to campus.

The metal detectors aren’t much good anyway.  Half they time they malfunction and/or their sirens are disregarded.  When this happens, students are NOT patted down.  They are told to empty their pockets.  It is my opinion that the metal detectors do more to provide the illusion of security than to ensure ACTUAL security, and at best only serve to discourage the notion of bringing a weapon in.  But a sufficiently observant and determined student could easily get around the system.

After morning intake the metal detectors are unplugged and put away.  Here is when the school is most vulnerable: anyone coming in during the school day is not subjected to any sort of search.  The doors around here are locked and you have to ring the bell and get buzzed in by the office.  But there’s no questions asked – the button is pushed and voila, you’re in.

This is precisely how Nicholas Cruz wrecked the havoc he did.  He walked in with a duffel bag and a book bag filled.  Where were the metal detectors?  Where were the security guards?  Where were the questions and searches?

Exhibit B: Security guards and district police officers

This school district has their own police force.  Each school in this district is assigned an armed district officer and also has sundry unarmed security guards and hall monitors.

Now, some of the officers that work for the district are fine examples of policemen who take their jobs seriously.  They are truly there to serve and protect our students and staff.

Others…. not so much.

Let me give you two troubling examples of the “underachievers” from one of my schools.  Officer Amy (not her real name) was so inept with her firearm that one of my friends (also a district officer) witnessed her attempting to load the bullets into her clip BACKWARDS while at the firing range.

Officer Ned (also not his real name) never bothered with his kevlar at work.  Said it was hot and uncomfortable.  There was one terrifying occasion at that school in which he was, in fact, faced with an active shooter.  Maybe I’ll post that story later.  When the gunshots went off and we went into lock down, it was not him, the officer on duty, that ran in the direction of the bullets.  No, it was an off duty officer who also worked as teacher.  He left his students with another teacher and dashed to his car, where he kept his weapon.  Without his kevlar or any other form of protection he was on scene, ready to kill or die to protect our students.  When “Ned” finally showed up, it had become apparent there was no real threat – not to our campus, at least. He laughingly admitted to the teacher that he heard the shots and was in “no hurry” to get there.

Coward.  Disgrace.

But even when a school IS blessed with an officer worthy of the badge, that’s still only one officer for campuses that are quite large.  Adding to the problem, the officers are sometimes called off campus for a variety of reasons, leaving us utterly without armed protection.  Even with hardworking security guards and hall monitors, support simply can’t be everywhere at once.  If that were the case, then teachers and administrators would never be called upon to break up fights ourselves.

The simple fact is that proper school security would make both of the aforementioned debates irrelevant.  That simple fact is that every single one of the shootings all the way back to Columbine could have been PREVENTED or at very least mitigated if the schools had proper security.  More police officers on campus.  An armed guard posted at the door at all times.  No one gets in without a thorough search.  PERIOD.  When 9/11 happened we went so bonkers over airport security that we even have to take our shoes off and endure nekked xray imagining.  But shooting after shooting has occurred in our schools and all we do is descend into the same unproductive arguments over the Second Amendment.

Guys, the solution to this is so much simpler than a Constitutional Amendment or trying to turn teachers into cops or soldiers.  We need REAL security in our schools.

THIS is what the debate needs to be centered on.  Because until we’re properly protecting our students – like we protect our airports and our city halls and even our concerts and cultural events – then no Constitutional amendment or assault weapons ban will make our kids any safer than they are now.  Bad guys will always be able to get guns.  And if they can’t get guns then they’ll make pipe bombs or god knows what else, and they will continue to get into our schools and kill our children.