On the one hand I feel bad posting twice in one day about gun violence, but this article in the Washington Post merits a post of its own. After digging around on Google I’ve learned that six states, OK, MO, IL, TN, AR, and NJ, specifically mandate active shooter drills for schools while 26 other states require general school lockdown or safety drills. Last year 10 State legislatures considered legislation that mandate “active shooter drills” as outlined in this synopsis written by Lauren Heintz for the National Conference of State Legislatures:
Since the Newtown, Conn., school shooting tragedy in December 2012, state lawmakers have been working on strategies to strengthen K-12 safety and preparedness. One of the most common responses has been to add “active shooter” or “school intruder” drills to the list of general emergency drills that 32 states already require schools to conduct for earthquakes, fires, tornadoes and other potential disasters.
Lawmakers in 10 states—Arkansas, California, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Tennessee—have introduced such legislation since last year. The bills tend to address only general requirements for the drills, such as how many must be conducted each year and who needs to be involved, rather than specifically what should occur during the drill. Like the laws requiring schools to conduct general emergency drills, the proposed “active shooter” measures give districts and schools the flexibility to implement the type of drill they determine is best for them, from simple discussions and table-top exercises to full-scale operations involving emergency and law enforcement personnel.
To address concerns that the “active shooter” drills might unduly frighten children, the National Association of School Psychologists has created guidelines for the drills.They include recommendations that school officials steer clear of potentially traumatic stimuli, such as blank bullets or fake blood; collaborate with an outside expert to conduct the drills; and focus on communicating the purpose of the drills with students and families well in advance.
The mandatory active shooter drills provide zealous police forces with an opportunity to use their acting talents as the Washington Post article referenced above indicated. That article featured this picture from an “active shooter drill” staged earlier this year in NJ:
The picture raised a number of questions in my mind:
- Who took the picture?
- Who gave authorization for this to occur?
- Who authorized the picture?
- Why are the policeman smiling?
- Were parents smiling when they received panicked texts from their children?
- How did administrators handle the influx of panicked parents?
- Were the CHILDREN smiling afterwards?
- How did teachers and school personnel handle the panicked children afterwards?
- Were the TEACHERS smiling afterwards?
- How did administrators deal with the teachers who were stunned by the unannounced drill?
- Would the police have arrived before the shooter and his hostage left the school in a REAL “event” of this nature?
- How would police handle a shooting event if their was already carnage in the school?
- Do we need to legislate drills for cleaning up wounded bodies since most shooting incidents occur without warning and end within minutes?
- Who thought this was a good idea?
- Who drafted the legislation that mandated these drills?
I’ve got a catchy phrase for this kind of legislation: No Child Left Unafraid. I’ll be watching the legislative docket in NH to make sure I get an opportunity to weigh in any legislation they consider about this!
Nick Kristoff’s column in today’s NYTimes poses this question: “Do Politicians Love Kids?“. My answer is: “Yes…. but… they love shareholders more!”
Kristoff’s column focuses on the need for universal prekindergarten, an issue he believes both parties can support. The column offers James Heckman’s research as evidence along with lots of statistics comparing our nation’s preschool programming with our “competitors”.
But, as noted in earlier posts on this issue, I believe Republicans and “school reform” advocates will use the expansion of prekindergarten as an opportunity to expand “choice” and expand the privatization movement that has burgeoned under NCLB, RTTT, and in urban districts under the control of business minded neo-liberal and/or conservative mayors. This led me to leave the following comment:
Given the Republican majority in the House and Senate and a handful of sympathetic neo-liberal Democrats here’s the likely pre-kindergarten scenario: vouchers. Instead of putting prekindergarten programs under the aegis of public school systems Republicans and “school reform” Democrats will advocate for “parental choice” and use the funds to open privatized programs instead of expanding the mission of “failed government schools”… and the shareholders of these programs will benefit while urban neighborhood schools and small rural schools wither.
Politicians love kids… but they love shareholders even more… because kids can’t vote or make campaign contributions but shareholders can.
Frank Bruni’s column in today’s NYTimes celebrates an emerging trend of the election of Governors who have a background in the private sector, a trend that I see as ominous for the traditionally operated public school system. Titled “From Profits to Politics”, the column profiles several recently elected governors whose business acumen presumably swayed voters… and includes this hypothesis:
… in a country convinced that government is broken and its servants hopeless, perhaps plutocrats are cuddlier than bureaucrats.
No one ever accused Michael Bloomberg of being “cuddlier” than any of his opponent, but his can do methods worked effectively as mayor in many of the business-like functions associated with the city. But some aspects of public service, notably those involved with human beings, do not lend themselves to “business solutions”… with public education being one such service. In response to the column I left the following comment:
If we run the public sector “like a business” expect more outsourcing, more privatization, and less democracy. Look across the river to Newark public schools to see what “running schools like a business” looks like. The local board has no control, the CEO/Superintendent has unquestioned authority in oversight of the schools but complete obeisance to the Governor who appointed her, and the “customers” (in the parlance of school reformers) have no say over where their children attend school. So taxpayers have forfeited their democratic oversight of education and their neighborhood schools while privatized schools generate profits, some of which they use to “invest” in the election of businessmen who will help them earn even more.
As noted in my post earlier today, the State takeovers and privatization movement do not eliminate the endemic problem of patronage in public education. Instead the patronage increases the wealth of the 1% while diminishing good jobs for the 99%….
This Public School $hakedown blog post by Jan Ressenger describes the American Enterprise Institute’s unwillingness to hear bad news about the impact of the two-decade-long takeover of Newark NJ public schools on the parents and students who reside in that city. The mismanagement of urban schools several decades ago combined with (or perhaps cause by) patronage by mayors and school board members made State takeovers a popular solution twenty years ago. The reasoning in the 1980s was that State Departments of Education had the expertise to operate underperforming school districts effectively and under their apolitical oversight the district’s would shed the patronage assignments and be organized more efficiently. Once the state intervened, so the thinking went, the State’s expertise would increase test scores and their administrative skill would reduce operational costs. Twenty years later, as this post indicates, Newark still flounders academically and the patronage associated with locally elected officials has been replaced with state-level patronage (aka privatization). In the meantime, in the past thirty years the expertise of State Departments has diminished due to deep budget cuts making the whole notion of State control preposterous. And now instead of Newark being able to determine it’s own destiny with locally elected officials it is being privatized clumsily and dictatorially by the State appointed Superintendent who answers only to the Governor.
It would be good to see State legislatures who have “state takeovers” as a solution to underperforming schools either repeal those laws or provide the State with funds to oversee the schools they are mandated to operate. Instead, I expect the majority of states to move in the direction of “market based” solutions whereby an administrator is given the authority to oversee the dismantling of the public schools and their replacement with for-profit charters…. because we ALL know that making money is the primary reason people go into the field of education.