07 October 2006

Safety at School

I didn't have a chance to post immediately after the most recent and most horrific of the recend epidemic of school shootings here. Maybe it has just taken me this long to really come to terms with it.

On Tuesday, the day after a one-room church school was invaded in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania, my high school staged an intruder alert. My class was in the library at the time (a terrible place, considering that was the place where most of the kids died at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, in 1999. The objective during an intruder alert is to get students out of sight of the door, in hope that an intruder will take a look and move on. We went into the storeroom and waited for the all clear.

I wasn't teaching when the Columbine Massacre happened, I was in Albania. When I returned to teaching six months later, I couldn't believe how much had changed! Every classroom door was locked and closed. At the first school where I taught, students and teachers had to display ID badges. Only one entrance to the school was left open. I felt like I was teaching in an armed fort!

At the school I teach in now, there aren't quite so many security plans in place, although I feel pretty safe. There is an armed sheriff's deputy on the campus of each middle and high school. Occasionally, after a fight or something serious, he will be seen leading a student away in handcuffs. Last year, we had a lockdown while drug-sniffing dogs went through the hallways and parking lots. There are security cameras on every hallway and every entrance. It's pretty secure, I guess.

I think it's safe to say that I probably have one of the most secure workplaces in the county--yet it remains one of the most vulnerable.

Even with all those plans in place, there is very little to stop an armed madman determined to gain entry (and molest female students, as the two recent shootings have involved). Apparently, the increase in security at public schools may have had something to do with the madman in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania, choosing an isolated, unsecure church school as a target.

What are we to do, then?

1. One legislator in Wisconsin believes that we should give firearms to teachers. This is a dumb idea, although it might have given me an extreme way to cut down on problem students in my 4th-block class (see Atypical below).
2. We could try the old method of using a five-day waiting period before the purchase of a gun. This worked throughout the Nineties, but the law has lapsed under the current national leadership.

I don't know. When a questionnaire went around Tuesday about possible security measures, I recommended that all adults on campus--if not all students--have ID. I also thought it would be a good idea to put one-way glass on the doors, along with signs declaring that an armed sheriff's officer was on the campus. I thought that might give intruders pause before entering.

1 comment:

Amanda said...

Wow JD. Just the other day I was thinking how different all the security measures where I work must be from schools on your continent of residence. Sounds like I was wrong: we have the same intruder drills as you (although they're called "Code Something-or-Other," because every action's got to have a fancy code name). I supposed bomb threats and "shelter in place" alerts are common drills in your part of town, too?

I think about it from time to time: I don't consider myself any sort of Lisa Potts, but if someone came after the kids, the instinct to protect my students would be overwhelming.