America has crossed a dangerous threshold. For the first time in our history, the words “kindergarten” and “mass murder” have been connected at the hip as part of a single event. But we are not strangers to the pain. We have all been witness, for too many years now, to the senseless violence visited upon the innocent young children and staff of Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Invariably, as we lay the victims to rest, we engage in sobering discussions about the proliferation of high-powered assault weapons and the need for mental health support. Still, no action of any real significance ever happens.
But one conversation that we also ignore at our peril is the need for better security in our schools. I was an administrator in a Baltimore County high school in 1999 when the massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado occurred. Teachers nationwide were terrified as we walked into schoolhouses knowing that we had suddenly violence could visit our classrooms on such an unimaginable level.
What I remember distinctly about that Baltimore school was how little security we had. In a school sitting on more than 30 acres, with more than 2,000 students and about 150 faculty, the entire security team comprised of me, four other administrators and one Baltimore County police officer. With more than a dozen entrances and exits, it was simply a matter of luck that we did not suffer a similar fate as Columbine and Sandy Hook. .
Working in a school today, I can report that not much has changed. While the Department of Education and Secret Service released a set of policy prescriptions for school safety in 2000 following the Columbine shootings, schools are still wide open for attack.
Despite many systems implementing procedures for lockdown and shelter to guard against dangerous scenarios, it does not go far enough in ensuring the safety of our children.
A handful of unarmed of security personnel cannot ensure the safety of the 350,000 square foot facility that I currently work if a person decides to attack us. The idea that security personnel should now be trained and armed may not be a far-fetched notion in attempting to defend against the senseless murder of innocent students in school.
Indeed, the same Congress that refuses to address legislative measures to stem the 32,000 plus annual gun deaths per year in the United States is the same Congress that is protected by an 1,800-member police force of its own. Security at every entrance, vehicles with bullet proof glass and metal detectors at each door illustrate prudent measures to keep members of Congress safe. Can they honestly continue to deny the same for our children?
Following Sandy Hook, fear over violence in schools in inevitably prompt increased requests for psychologists, educators and law enforcement professionals to assist in preventing future school violence incidents. We still do not have a foundation for developing effective assessment and prevention approaches by first distinguishing planned school-based attacks from other forms of school and youth violence.
Alfonzo Porter is a contributor to The RootDC and the author of “More Like Barack, Less Like Tupac: Eradicating the Academic Achievement Gap by Countering Decades of the Hip Hop Hoax.” He is a speaker, consultant, former teacher and school administrator.
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