Small steps could lead to safer campuses
In the wake of shootings in Connecticut and California in the last few weeks, I've been giving some thought to school safety.
Upon hearing the news of the shootings in Connecticut, my sisters, both of whom are in their early 20s, sent me messages suggesting that it would be in my daughter's best interest to be home-schooled – they wanted her tucked safely in our home.
Don't get me wrong – I understand the sentiment. But it's not the answer. My child loves her school, her teacher and her friends, and there are a variety of positives that come from attending school.
So what is the answer? What can be done to keep kids safe?
An obvious answer is gun control – get the guns out of the community. But that's a broad blanket statement that doesn't address the problem.
You can legislate into eternity about guns – stop selling them. Ammo could be tightly restricted and/or banned. But somehow, I don't see the government going door to door to remove already-purchased guns from houses. How do you legislate what someone has already purchased?
Another part of the problem is the state of mental health care in the United States, and the relationship between mental health and access to guns. Again though, a solution there will take time to find, and even longer to implement.
So let's look at the schools specifically.
It seems that a simple piece of the puzzle involves doors. What if every school building in the U.S. had doors that automatically locked from the outside, but could be simply pushed open from the inside? What if those doors existed in every classroom? People can easily exit the class, but they can only get in with a key.
This concept does bring up a different problem though, which boils down to how much you trust your child's teacher. A closed classroom door removes a layer of transparency – those outside can no longer, at a glance, see what's happening inside. In most classrooms, that's likely not an issue, but there have been cases of inappropriate behavior on the teacher's part – some might argue that a closed door could encourage that.
And this solution doesn't address other moments of vulnerability on a school campus – recess, or lunchtime, or walking to art class. It also doesn't address the loss of freedom that a locked door implies. But, maybe it's a start.
Another possible layer of safety stems from knowledge. I heard about a school in Ohio that, after the Connecticut shootings, brought in a police officer during an in-service day. The officer stood in the auditorium and fired blanks from his gun. The teachers listened from their classrooms so they would know what the sound was, should anyone ever fire a gun at their school, and so they would be prepared to take action to protect both themselves and their students – lock the doors, move away from windows, etc.
There are a lot of “solutions” being bounced around these days. But maybe the first thing to do is take steps that are within our control – classroom locks, showing teachers what a possible threat sounds like – while we wait for our elected representatives to make their next move.