$900,000,000/year on Safety for Public Schools Despite Data Showing Schools are Safer Than Ever
I have often posted on school safety issues and the irrational fear that drives decisions to spend wildly on safety items that have no demonstrable proof of saving lives and spending on School Resource Officers (SROs) who ultimately end up increasing arrest rates among poor and minority students while providing no demonstrable increase in security for children in affluent districts. Today’s Nation includes an article by Sasha Abramsky that is a tour de force on everything that is wrongheaded about our safety priorities. The article opens with the following description of a non-public pre-school in Utah:
To get the front door of the school to open, visitors had to be positively ID’d by a fingerprint-recognition system. In the foyer, a bank of monitors showed a live feed of the activity in every classroom. After drop-off, many parents would spend 15 minutes to half an hour staring at the screens, making sure their children were being treated well by their teachers and classmates. Many of the moms and dads had requested Internet access to the images, but the school had balked, fearing that online sexual predators would be able to hack into the video stream. All of the classroom doors had state-of-the-art lockdown features, and all of the teachers had access to long-distance bee spray—which, in the case of an emergency, they were instructed to fire off at the eyes of intruders. The playground was surrounded by a high concrete wall, which crimped the kids’ views of the majestic Wasatch Mountains. The imposing front walls, facing out onto a busy road, were similarly designed to stop predators from peering into the classrooms.
This is for a pre-school in an affluent suburb in Utah! As Abramsky reports later in the article, this kind of high-tech safety device is being installed to prevent school shootings and abductions even though both of these events are statistically unlikely and even though data indicates schools are safer today than ever. The article also indicates that schools are projected to spend $907,000,000 on “security measures” in 2016, despite the fact that schools have not recovered from the budget cuts imposed from 2008 onward. The article describes an array of products such as:
… ShotSpotter technology, an advanced sound-recognition sensor system deployed by police departments in many urban neighborhoods to identify when and where gunshots are occurring.
Shelbyville IN’s “…$400,000 security system in the town’s high school…located in open countryside just outside of town, is…saturated with cameras linked into the nearest police station. Every teacher wears a panic button around his or her neck, and pressing it sends the entire campus into instant lockdown. For good measure, police officers watching from miles away can set off blinding smoke cannons and ear-splitting sirens at a moment’s notice.
Bullet Blockers, a company working out of Lowell, Massachusetts, that manufactures bulletproof backpacks for elementary-school children. The ones for young girls come in raspberry pink or red plaid; the ones for boys come in red, black, navy blue, and more. The company also markets bulletproof jackets, bulletproof iPad cases, and bulletproof whiteboards for use in classrooms. It even sells a “survival pack and safety kit,” complete with fire starters, first-aid guides, cold compresses, and other items that would allow a child to survive a prolonged school lockdown.
Digital Fly, which enables school officials to monitor all social-media postings within a radius chosen by the school. The intent, which would be eerily familiar to government spy agencies the world over, is to drill down into communications used near schools as a way to identify potential shooters, bombers, bullies, or would-be suicides. The postings of everyone within that catchment area—whether they’re students, local residents, or simply people passing through—are monitored.
There are students graduating from high school today who only know of schools as places where doors are locked, guards are on duty, and cameras are recording their every move. The next generation of students will know of schools where fingerprint or retinal recognition systems are needed to get into class or to borrow from the library or use the school computer… where bullet proof backpacks and i-pad covers will be mandatory… and where someone will read every entry on their computer and listen to every word they utter. Parents may lament this development like one of the parents in Utah who said that he wished his child had more freedom. But like that same parent, they might be willing to trade that freedom for safety. Here’s his quote:
I’d love to let her spread her wings a little bit more. But we do keep our thumbs on her. There’s always the fear of a kidnap, a traffic accident. Turn on the news at night—we watch the news while we eat dinner. The media loves to create a sense of panic. They love bad news.”
The media over bad news… and gun manufacturers love it too… and so do school safety “experts”.