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Hardening Schools Will Harden the Hearts of Children… Create Fear Instead of Understanding

March 2, 2018

I read this section from the daily email I get from Politico’s Morning Education yesterday and had to re-read my mantra to “cultivate compassion for all those I read about:

WHY HARDENING SCHOOLS HASN’T STOPPED SCHOOL SHOOTINGS: An Indiana high school dubbed the “safest school in America” has state-of-the-art cameras that send real-time footage to the sheriff’s office, smoke cannons in hallways, bulletproof doors and teachers who wear panic buttons. But it’s not enough to impress President Donald Trump. When Trump was told about the school last week during a White House meeting on school safety, he had only one question: “Do you have anybody inside with a gun that can take on the man that’s right outside the door – that by the way, can shoot right through the steel doors?”

Trump has defined school hardening as arming officials inside schools – a model already in wide practice using law enforcement officials, rather than teachers, and which has not stopped the carnage except in a handful of isolated successes. Research is spotty, but it suggests that simply fortifying schools – whether through the presence of armed officials or beefed-up security – does little to reduce the likelihood of school shootings and is not nearly as effective as identifying threats and intervening early to address them.

The NYTimes had a story that was equally disturbing to me describing the surprisingly large number of school districts who’ve already decided to arm teachers once their state legislatures passed permissive legislation that allowed them to do so. The article by Erica Green and Manny Fernandez described a rural district outside of Dayton that was a model of school safety… though it wasn’t clear if the glocks issued to 40 staff members could shoot right through the steel doors:

The district spent about $70,000 on safes, bulletproof vests, cameras, guns, radios and ammunition. Uniformed, armed officers cost $200,000 a year, and an insurance policy of $100,000 a year includes coverage for its staff with access to firearms. Those are negligible costs for a school district with a $36 million budget, the superintendent said.

Here’s the comment I left after reading that statement:

As one who served as a public school superintendent for 29 years, I would love to have worked one of those years in a district where the board members and voters saw $200,000 per year for new staff members and $100,000 in additional insurance costs as “negligible”…. and I worked for 15 of those years in districts with budgets that had nine figures. My takeaway: fear will stimulate a lot more spending than hope…. and I guess that’s why our military spending far exceeds what we are willing to spend to help each other.

And to top off my daily reading on guns in schools, I read this paragraph from Politico’s Morning Education:

SPEAKING OF SCHOOL SAFETY … A number of news stories have reported that parents are buying “bulletproof” backpacks in the wake of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. But the Justice Department on Wednesday said it has never tested those items and any item bearing a certification from the National Institute of Justice is fake. “The National Institute of Justice – the research, development, and evaluation agency of the Department of Justice – has never tested nor certified ballistic items, such as backpacks, blankets, or briefcases, other than body armor for law enforcement,” DOJ spokesman Devin O’Malley said in a statement. “Marketing that claims NIJ testing or certification for such products is false.

My takeaway from this paragraph: Capitalism is alive and well… and MAYBE even the current administration sees the value of government regulation when it comes to marketing safety products….

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