Posts Tagged ‘Guns in School’

Installation of Metal Detectors Supported Because Kids Are Shooting Each Other Off Campus with Guns… but Guns Aren’t the Problem?

October 17, 2018 Leave a comment

I read with a mix of astonishment, bewilderment, and frustration that Duval County FL is going to spend $2.5 million to install walk through metal detectors and provide hand wands in each of its high schools. This decision was characterized as one that appeared to

“…reverse a long-held position held by Duval County Schools’ previous leaders, including former Superintendent Nikolai Vitti, who were reluctant to take that measure in part because of cost and a belief that relationships between students and school staff were better options for unearthing weapons in school.

Based on some news reports, it was unclear who made the decision. But reported it was announced by Micheal Edwards, director of the district’s police force… which is unsurprising to me since police are more likely to believe in the power of preventative screening that the value of relationships between students and school staff. The school board chair weighed in as well:

Ten of the 30 Duval County public school students who died last year were victims of gun violence, School Board Chairwoman Paula Wright said last month. From January to mid-September, 21 Jacksonville youths were injured by guns, more than in most Florida cities, she added.

So… because many students who attend schools were injured outside of school the Board, the district police chief, and the newly appointed Superintendent are all in on screening each and every child each and every day at each and every entrance to each and every high school. And anyone who has operated a school would realize that the reported cost $2.5 million for the equipment, which includes better surveillance cameras, is just the beginning. Whoever mans these devices will need to be paid and their use will clearly need to be extended to after school activities, sports events, and plays and band performances… which means more personnel costs.

But wait! Maybe more staff will not need to be added! Why? Because:

School administrators will operate the metal detectors and wands, Edwards said, because Florida law gives more leeway for administrators to search student bags than police would have.

When I read these reports it makes me wonder what kind of individuals will be drawn to assuming administrative positions in the future…. and how those administrators, who spend their mornings and evenings monitoring the front doors will ever be able to find the time to develop the kinds of relationships that provide support children need. I am certain that the former Superintendent, Mr. Vitti, is shaking his head as well….


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An Argument AGAINST Arming Teachers: Vermont School Locks Down When Umbrella is Mistaken for Rifle

August 30, 2018 Comments off

I cannot get the details on what transpired yesterday at Lyndon Institute in Lyndonville, Vermont because it is behind a paywall at the Caledonian Record, but the headline and the first sentence of the article gives me enough of a prompt to write this post. The headline reads:

Umbrella Mistaken For Gun Sparks Lockdown At LI

The first sentence of the article reads:

Lyndonville Police Chief Jack Harris is praising the response of Lyndon Institute officials and law enforcement for their response to yesterday’s report of a suspicious and possibly armed person on campus.

Based on the headline, the “…suspicious and possibly armed person on campus” was wielding an umbrella and not a gun… and based on yesterday’s weather forecast it would seem that the umbrella bearer was being prudent in bringing an umbrella to school since the possibility of afternoon showers existed… and based on the fact that schools across Vermont and across the nation are opening the year under the threat of school shooters, it is not at all surprising that a vigilant adult mistook an umbrella for a gun and, upon seeing something, said something.

But here’s what is sad: reports like these make headlines without taking into account how an understandable mistake like this impacts the lives of the hundreds of children in the school and reinforces the notion that school shooters abound.

But there is one good thing that comes from this: parents should be thankful that the teacher who mistook an umbrella for a gun was not armed.

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Restorative Justice and Resources Will Make Schools Safe: SROs Not So Much

August 27, 2018 Comments off

Truthdig contributor Lidwina Bell wrote a short op ed piece titled “Schools Need Resources, Not School Resource Officers” that concluded with this:

Resource officers are a resource only by name. What would it look like if our schools were actually resourced?

In a well-resourced school, students are safe because staff can invest in their well-being. “Accountability” isn’t separated from a student’s ability to heal, thrive, and uplift the whole community. And students don’t wind up in jail or with a record for routine school incidents.

One SRO can cost up to $97,000. Instead of hiring officers that see students as criminals, schools can use that money for real school resources — mental health workers and restorative justice practitioners, to name a few — who build students up rather than push them out.

The article outlines many points made in previous posts on this blog: that SROs tend to criminalize discipline violations that put students on the path to prison; that restorative justice is superior to suspensions and/or arrests; that schools receiving funds for SROs could use those funds to help provide needed counseling services; and, implicitly, that solutions to the problems of school violence cannot be counteracted by imposing order with police. It can only be solved by cultivating an orderly environment through caring adults.

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Betsy in Wonderland: DeVos Proposes Using ESSA Funds for Impoverished Schools to Buy Guns for Teachers

August 23, 2018 Comments off

I just read received a “Breaking News Alert” from the NYTimes that links to an article whose first paragraph describes an idea that could have come from the staff of the Onion:

The Education Department is considering whether to allow states to use federal funding to purchase guns for educators, according to multiple people with knowledge of the plan.

This is not only a completely absurd idea, it is dangerous, counterproductive, and, as the NYTimes article by Erica Green details, probably illegal. As Ms. Green notes, as it stands now, grants distributed by the Homeland Security Department intended for “school preparedness” cannot be used for the purchase of weapons and ammunition. Moreover, following the Parkland FL shootings Congress explicitly passed a rule “…prohibiting the use of grants for firearms or firearm training in the Stop School Violence Act, under which the Justice Department will grant funds to school districts.”

But given the composition of the commission on school safety, the schools that group has visited as part of its listening tour, and the President’s insistence that arming teachers is a viable means of preventing school school shootings, I am not surprised that this proposal is getting serious consideration. And where will the funds to arm teachers come from given these explicit guidelines forbidding their purchase?

(T)he department is eyeing a program in federal education law, the Student Support and Academic Enrichment grants, that makes no mention of prohibiting weapons purchases. That omission would allow the education secretary, Betsy DeVos, to use her discretion to approve any state or district plans to use grant funding for firearms and firearm training, unless Congress clarifies the law or bans such funding through legislative action

The $1 billion student support program, part of the Every Student Succeeds Act, is intended for academic and enrichment opportunities in the country’s poorest schoolsand calls for school districts to use the money toward three goals: providing a well-rounded education, improving school conditions for learning and improving the use of technology for digital literacy.

So the scenario for funneling funds to schools for arms would go like this: the Federal government would allow states to have the discretion to use Student Support and Academic Enrichment grants to buy armaments for teachers instead of using those funds to provide a well-rounded education, improve school conditions for learning and improve the use of technology for digital literacy.

Somewhere in Washington DC a rabbit is late for a very important date…..

Tennessee’s Safety Assessments SOUND Like a Good Idea, But Fall Woefully Short in Funding

August 16, 2018 Comments off

In response to the Florida shootings last spring, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam formed a task force to address ways to prevent school shootings from happening in his state and recommended legislation to fund measures to improve safety in the schools. One of the first recommendations of the task force was to perform “safety assessments” on the 1,796 schools in the state, and yesterday’s Tennessean article by Jason Gonzales reports that the assessments are “99% complete”. With the balance to be completed by the end of this month. In a press release Governor Haslam issued yesterday he said:

“All children in Tennessee deserve to learn in a safe and secure environment. I am confident the significant work undertaken by our state and local officials as well as the funding to implement identified areas for improvement will serve to enhance the safety of our schools, educators and students.”

The Tennessean reported that the press release also noted that the state had approved $25 million in one-time, non-recurring funds and an additional $10 million that could be used “…for a variety of school safety enhancements, such as securing the entry and exit from schools, staff training and the hiring of school resource officers“… and and it “…can also be used for in-school mental health resources for students.”

I have frequently noted that politicians will often use statistics to obfuscate the true costs of achieving their ultimate goals, taking advantage of the innumeracy of voters and reporters. The Governor of Tennessee’s proclamation that $25 million in one-time, non-recurring funds and an additional $10 million per year is anywhere NEAR sufficient funding is a classic example. Anyone with a hand calculator can divide $25,000,000 by 1796 (the number of schools) and see that each school will receive less than $14,000 in “one time funds” and roughly $5,600 in continuing funds. $14,000 would not begin to provide the kind of “hardening” enhancements the Task Force is likely to recommend and $5,600 per year will note begin to cover the cost of either an SRO or “in-school mental health resources”.

So… what will happen when the Task Force issues its recommendations and school districts across the state calculate the costs to implement the recommendations? My hunch: after lengthy public deliberations each district will be compelled to dig into it’s pockets to come up with the additional funding needed to fully implement the new safety standards and something will be cut in the local budget to offset those costs. One result of this safety initiative is certain: when Governor Haslam and his GOP colleagues run for re-election why will tout “the significant work undertaken by our state” to address the safety concerns and the “millions of dollars” the state provided to ensure that safety measures were taken in schools. The multimillions raised by local funding required will be glossed over as will the cuts made to classrooms.

“Hardening Schools”: An Example of Orwell’s “Naming Things Without Calling up Mental Pictures of Them.”

August 13, 2018 Comments off

Over the past several months I’ve read several stories on the need to “harden” schools. Yesterday, I read a Truthdig article by Loveday Morris, Hazem Balousha, and Ruth Eglash on the inappropriate use of the word “clash” when one side has a clear and decided advantage over another, as has been the case in several “clashes” in the Middle East. In the article, the writers cited a quote from George Orwell:

“Clash” is a reporter’s best friend when they want to describe violence without offending anyone in power—in the words of George Orwell, “to name things without calling up mental pictures of them.”

On the heels of reading yesterday’s story in the New York Times, it struck me that our use of the phrase “hardening public schools” is the reporter’s best friend when they want to describe the de facto incarceration of children without offending parents, voters, and the politicians who use that phrase. After all, would anyone support the “solution” to the school shooting problem if it was was presented as

  • enclosing schools with razor-wire fences that can only be entered through checkpoints overseen by armed guards,
  • monitoring the behavior of students with surveillance cameras,
  • providing teachers with concealed weapons, and
  • having children engage in periodic drills designed to frighten them into submission should a shooter somehow get through the impenetrable fortress that constitutes a “hardened school”

“Hardened schools” fails to conjure up a mental picture… for if it did, no one would support it.

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The Sad Reality: Students Returning to “Hardened” Schools

August 12, 2018 1 comment

Here’s the headline in today’s NYTimes headline article by Patrick Mazzei:

Back-to-School Shopping for Districts: Armed Guards, Cameras and Metal Detectors

The article describes the sad reality of public education’s reaction to school shootings:

  • We are investing millions on armed guards who monitor children and FAR too little on staff members who could provide support to teachers and parents when students become disengaged and depressed.
  • We are using precious and limited staff development time to train teachers on how to use tourniquets instead of how to identify and deal with students who are disengaged and depressed.
  • We are redoubling the lockdown drill training, increasing the frequency and “reality” of school shooting drills that increase anxiety and fear among students.
  • We are spending millions of limited dollars to acquire fences, sophisticated surveillance cameras, and metal detectors while roofs leak, many schools lack the technology infrastructure needed to prepare students for the future, and many teachers dig ever deeper in their pockets to provide students with school supplies.
  • We are seeking more funds from taxpayers for these expenditures at a time when spending for education overall has decreased in real dollars since the Great Recession… and decreased substantially in many states.
  • And in 10 states, districts will be debating the feasibility of arming classroom teachers… a debate that will use precious time at school board meetings, time that could be used to debate other means of dealing with student alienation and despair that leads to the school shootings.

I completely understand the urgent need to “do something”… but I am distressed that the “something” seldom addresses the root causes of student violence, which have little to do with “arms control” or “hardening” schools and more to do with making schools warm and welcoming to each and every student enrolled. I hope in the days ahead to read of a district who is taking steps in THAT direction!  I despair that we are creating schools that make 24/7 surveillance in fenced environments patrolled by armed guards the norm for our future citizens.