Last month, I visited my parents in Texas. My mother asked if I could pick up my nephew from school, and of course I was happy to oblige.
I wandered around the school’s campus but could not find the office. At least four of the school’s staff noticed me from a distance. At this point, I was in the middle of campus, and then, only when I asked for help, did I get noticed.
I cannot criticize the lack of awareness or vigilance to danger at this school. We are all accustomed to a certain level of security and would like to think nothing bad will ever happen.
Schools are supposed to be a safe place for children to learn, but this is no longer a simple reality. Sadly, we must be on guard at these once-sacred places. The innocence and safety of the past is no more.
There is no way to make a school or any place 100% safe. The best we can do is the best we can do. Campuses are different all over the country. Some have no fences, gates, or locked doors. Some have only one entryway that is monitored and grants access after a buzz. Neither of these will stop a person determined to enter and cause mayhem. Some would say the answer is a guard – armed, if needed. This, again, is no guarantee of stopping an incident, and it brings about a negative dynamic for a school to be armed and ready for danger.
There is no simple solution. We must make it difficult as possible for an unlawful person to gain access to our children. As we have seen recently, the person may not be a wild-eyed maniac dressed in black, but a once-devoted spouse that has attended several school gatherings and has now snapped.
My premise is that I have no doubt I, myself, can gain access to any school campus I wish. So what is the solution? As stated before, we must erect preventative measures and follow them, but this is not nearly enough. We need to be vigilant and understand that having a plan once an intruder is inside is paramount. As an oceangoing ship has airtight compartments to prevent water from flooding the entire ship, our classrooms become the last line of defense. Communication, rehearsed actions, and locked doors will serve us as the best option.
Is that it, you ask? Is that all we can do? The simple answer is no.
Well, then, what can we do to make security better? Proper training is always a solution, but there are other things. We need to think smarter and unconventionally if needed. Security guards do have a place for some schools. The traditional unarmed, uniformed guard will work for some, but not others. What if our guard was in plain clothes and deeply integrated into the school staff? What if we actually screened people correctly before buzzing them in? Would it make a difference if we followed policies instead of going with our feelings as, “I have seen that person around before; it should be ok?”
There is no simple solution for the problem of school security. We must continue to work to improve the safety of our schools as there is no other option. While there are some procedures that do work for all, there is no blanket solution. Everyone is unique and requires their own preventative and security measures. Just when we think we may have one, it will be time to change it.
Will Brown, Regional Response Manager