School Shootings: No More Political Football

schoolshooting17

Schools must be safe zones for students and teachers. That means the first step in school safety is securing the perimeter of a school. It seems like simple logic that we should keep intruders out and also make sure the area inside those boundaries is safe for children and adults. Students are our priority, but teachers need protection too.  Our School Safety Survey Results are here. 

Unfortunately, as we have seen far too frequently, our schools are easy targets for those who wish to harm others. When premeditated attacks and school shootings occur, they are usually over within minutes. Most of the time law enforcement is simply not able to respond quickly enough to the event and lives are needlessly lost.

Intruders, who wish to hurt our students and teachers, are usually very familiar with the schools’ defense system and create plans around that information. More than likely, the defense strategy is in the student handbook posted online. These people know when to attack, where to go and often how to escape. Students and teachers alike, as well as approved visitors should have a visible identification badge on them at all times. There needs to be secure exterior doors to limit building access points, and each district should develop a uniform policy for entry into a school.

Former Metro Nashville Principal Bill Gemmill, pointed out: “All schools need upgraded security, whether it is as simple and reasonable as inside locks on classroom doors.” It is also time to put metal detectors in every school across America. The federal government could absorb the cost by simply eliminating any of the already wasteful programs they are funding. Public school safety must be a priority at every level of government. If you see something, say something, and then someone in authority must do something.

The last line of defense that we can have for our kids is an armed person willing and ready to defend them if the unspeakable should happen. That is why it is critical that we look at expanding the School Resource Officer (SRO) program. This is a highly effective program that serves many purposes during the school year and is invaluable where it now exists. It is important that the program be directed by a local law-enforcement agency, working in conjunction with the local education agency. The school can employ and utilize additional security, but the primary responsibility should fall to local law enforcement.

The Center for Problem-Oriented Policing has outlined three basic roles of an SRO: Safety Expert and Law Enforcer, Problem Solver and Liaison to Community Resources and Educator. While all three are important functions, the primary role should focus on the law enforcement and safety component. SRO’s should be preserving order and promoting safety on campus and serving as first responders in the event of critical incidents at schools, such as accidents, fires, explosions, and other life-threatening events. They are not supplementary school administrators dealing with minor school discipline issues or emergency instructors. It is clear that we must better define SRO programs, what we want them to accomplish, and better analyze how we measure their effectiveness. Law Enforcement and School District Leaders should yield to the law enforcement professionals on matters of school safety and law enforcement.

It is time to discuss the gun issue. I strongly support the 2nd Amendment and have a handgun carry permit myself. We must have common sense approach to who, when, and where we can carry firearms, without infringing on the rights of law abiding citizens. We should raise the age for the purchase of certain guns to the age of 21, with exemption to active duty military. We prohibit drinking of alcoholic beverage until 21, we should follow suit here as well. Many young people just are not prepared for the responsibility of drinking or owning a firearm. We should make stronger background checks, considering factors such as criminal background and mental health. We should also prohibit bump stocks that can convert guns into automatic weapons. We should more aggressively punish those who commit crimes with guns. But we will need to be careful that the policy is reasonable.

Policymakers, at the state and federal level, are also likely to look at legislation that empowers individual school districts to determine for themselves what direction they want to take on school safety, including qualified, certified and licensed volunteer school personnel going armed in their building. If a district decides to allow trained and armed teachers and administrators into the schools, the decision should not be taken lightly. The state should never mandate educators having to carry firearms or prohibit them from carrying, if permitted by the district. It is a decision that should be made at the local level based on the needs and size of the community.

Certainly, armed teachers who possess training or a military background would deter some intruders. However, trained law enforcement personnel are much preferred and would be a much greater deterrent. Mike Conrad, a teacher in Detroit said in a recent interview: “I think that the moment that you put a gun on the hip of a teacher in a classroom, that we have accepted the norm that school shootings will not stop, that we are now on the front line to defend against them, instead of trying to find a way to stop them.” The subject is very emotional, with good arguments coming from either side of the debate, which is why each community must decide for themselves this issue.

School safety policies must be flexible and practical. However, the issue of improved school security will not be resolved in the current political environment, as long as real solutions are not considered based on a liberal or conservative bias. It is time to quit playing political volleyball with this issue. Real lives, those of children and adults, are at stake in our schools. The time of talking is past; it is time to take action. Any viable option that can lead to a safer environment in our schools and communities should be on the table.

#####

JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited. For more information on this subject or any education issue please contact Professional Educators of Tennessee. To schedule an interview please contact Audrey Shores, Director of Communications, at 1-800-471-4867 ext.102.

This article also appeared at:  http://www.proedtn.org/news/388542/No-More-Political-Volleyball.htm

The School Safety Survey Results are Found here:  http://www.proedtn.org/news/395676/Tennessee-School-Safety-Survey-Results.htm

School Safety and Security Event Today

JC Bowman will be joining  Sheriff Jim Hammond and other leaders in Hamilton County to discuss School Safety and Security.  Event is open to the public.  Info: https://atomic-temporary-137731796.wpcomstaging.com/2018/04/13/school-safety-and-security-town-hall/

JC's Blurb 3

I Don’t Like Mondays

Research records the very first school shooting incident in the United States occurred in Greencastle, Pennsylvania at Enoch Brown School in 1764. The first school shooting I can recall was carried out by Brenda Ann Spencer in 1979. Spencer killed two and wounded eight at Grover Cleveland Elementary School in San Diego, California. When asked by a reporter why she shot at the school, she heartlessly replied “I don’t like Mondays.” The Boomtown Rats popularized that phrase into a song. Most people probably never knew the background.

We, as a society, romanticize depression, violence and death on social media and in video games. Then politicians and talking heads on television and radio pontificate on issues that many really do not understand and are unwilling to confront. Unfortunately, we live in a culture which devalues life where we become fascinated by one event and we do not see the long-term effect. We are then free to move on, leaving families and communities in real pain still struggling for real answers.

We have to bravely confront mental health issues. Social media in particular has gone from support of people who are clinically depressed to glamorizing the ideas of sadness. Samara Khan writing in Ethos News points out that “depression is a very real, and often very debilitating mental illness that starkly contrasts with the pretty pastel photos on social media.” Dr. Mark Reinecke, chief psychologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, told The Atlantic: “During the vulnerable years during which adolescents seek out self-affirmation and recognition from others, this new, easy promise of being recognized as strong, beautiful, and mysterious…can be very tempting.” Reinecke concludes “Too often, it just leads to more teenagers believing and feeling they are depressed, self-pitying, self-harming.”

Sheriff Scott Israel, of Broward County, Florida is pleading with lawmakers to give police and doctors more power to involuntarily hospitalize people for psychiatric evaluation over violent and threatening social media posts. However, the reality is many mental health professionals cannot even get a person with active psychosis and suicidal ideation hospitalized. Our current health care situation forces hospitals to turn people away because they are over-crowded, understaffed, underfunded, and have no authority to keep anyone anymore. We need to strengthen our laws and focus on mental health. In addition, more guidance counselors in schools and increased professional development for all teachers to help identify problem students should be considered.

The majority of school shootings are done by males. Researchers seemingly cannot understand why this occurs. We don’t dare address the topic of the psychological castration of the modern male or to combat what the academic world calls “toxic masculinity.” Author and philosopher Christina Hoff Sommers has repeatedly challenged the issue for nearly two decades. Sommers noted a Bureau of Justice Statistics report on the decline in violence at schools, is at a historic low. She observed “that while violence may be built into the core of a small coterie of sociopathic boys, most boys are not sociopathic. As far back as 1965 Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan called attention to the social dangers of raising boys without benefit of a paternal presence. He wrote in a 1965 study for the Labor Department, “A community that allows a large number of young men to grow up in broken families, dominated by women, never acquiring any stable relationship to male authority, never acquiring any rational expectations about the future—that community asks for and gets chaos.”

Alexa Curtis wrote in Rolling Stone: For teens who “are battling mental health issues, witnessing the end of a life” as easily as television portrayed it “could help desensitize kids to this very serious matter.” She then adds: “There will always be people who feel like they have no one to talk to, and those are the people most at risk whom we have to figure out how to reach.” Who can children talk to when they have the urge to hurt themselves or others? If the answer is nobody, then more teenagers taking their lives and the lives of others will only continue. Chances are they don’t like Mondays, they probably won’t like any other day of the week either.

##

JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee. Professional Educators of Tennessee is a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited.