It’s unusual, if helpful, to have a columnist announce his lack of qualification to comment on a subject right off the bat. Don Murphy opens a piece he wrote on school safety for lohud.com by stating, “I’ll begin with the disclaimers … I’m not an educator, in law enforcement, in politics or a mental health professional nor a member of the National Rifle Association. I understand the Second Amendment but I am not a gun enthusiast. In fact I’ve never fired a gun.” Maybe you can see where this is going . . .
My credentials, for this piece, are borne out of the good fortune of having four grown children and 10 grandchildren. The latter 10 are currently either in our public schools or day care centers, mostly in Dutchess County.
So while perhaps not an expert on much of anything relevant to school safety, no one can argue that Don doesn’t have a dog in this fight. Unfortunately, being invested doesn’t ensure quality of reasoning (although I give him major kudos for not naming any of the spree-shooters he references).
Don actually starts out promisingly enough, pointing out the miniscule chances of a school massacre happening in Dutchess County. Hell, the chances of something like that happening anywhere are tiny. As MP of mofopolitics.com points out, your child has a better chance of being struck and killed by lightning than being killed in a school massacre. Still, Don immediately flushes reasonableness right down the tubes.
Nonetheless, because it could happen, school safety should be elevated to a higher plane – but in the context of common sense and the reality of scarce financial resources.
I always get a little frisson of fear when I hear someone using the term “common sense” in conjunction with gun control. Probably because my common sense take on the subject — that the freedom to own and carry the weapon of your choice is a natural, fundamental, and inalienable human, individual, civil and Constitutional right, subject neither to the democratic process nor to arguments grounded in social utility — is nowhere near that of your average hoplophobe’s.
But before dismissing Don’s ideas, maybe we should actually look at them.
1. Stop the practice of placing armed guards in our schools. The Poughkeepsie Journal reported that Arlington Schools will spend $2 million per year to maintain this. It is unneeded and unaffordable. Some Arlington Schools have two full-time guards. Post Sandy Hook, this practice made us feel safe but it is unsustainable.
I have to agree with Don, here; spending $2 million a year is both unsustainable and stupid. Unfortunately, as long as Poughkeepsie and Dutchess County are part of the People’s Empire State Republic of New York, good bloody luck getting something intelligent and sustainable (i.e., allowing teachers and staff to exercise those fundamental rights I just spoke of and carry on the job) approved.
I grew up in Westchester County, right next door to Dutchess, and I can tell you that the mere suggestion that the people responsible for teaching their children should be able to carry guns would cause immediate loss of all bladder and bowel control in at least 80% of the population. As a friend of mine still trapped in the East Coast said, “I don’t want some nicotine-jonesing teacher to get pissed off and shoot my son because he mouthed off!” Sad to say he actually believes that the simple presence of a gun would make it much more likely that a teacher would succumb to murderous rage.
Heres’ Don’s second idea:
2. Introduce closed circuit TV (CCTV) on a few entrances and on key external locations. After 9 a.m., use only one entrance which is CCTV monitored. By the way, to avoid adding to operating costs, existing non-professional school personnel could assist, taking turns watching CCTV.
Will the cameras be there so the people watching will have a really good view of the killer as he shoots his way through the door? Remember that Sandy Hook had “controlled access” (i.e. locked doors) which did nothing to stop the killer there.
Don’s other example of Columbine shows the other reason such a system would be useless; the shooters in Littleton (theoretically) belonged there. They were Columbine students. The only advantage that such a system might provide is a few extra seconds of notice that something was wrong. And using Sandy Hook as an example those seconds would have been immaterial.
Through proper scheduling two hours/week from 20 people could do the (CCTV monitoring) job and no extra expense, just a safer school and a culture of safety. Post exterior signs that the school is monitored by CCTV inside and out.
Maybe Don can you explain how all the video cameras at Columbine did anything besides provide hack documentarian Michael Moore with some footage to exploit in Bowling for Columbine? A camera, in and of itself, will do nothing to make a school safer. As for the “culture of safety,” what the hell is that, besides a place where our children can get used to our modern surveillance society?
But Don’s not finished. He has loads more ideas.
3. Place in conspicuous locations (fire alarm locations) lock down alarms which can be pulled by anyone – not just the principal in the front office.
So just in case the sounds of gunshots and screams echoing through the halls and over the intercom aren’t enough, we should provide another source of chaos and cacophony to disorient and confuse students and staff alike? Got it.
4. Insure that all classrooms can be locked from inside which is not the case in some schools.
This actually is an idea I can get behind. As long as our schools remain target-rich environments gun-free zones, making the shooter waste a little time by shooting out locks could almost be construed as useful.
5. At the district’s central office, assign one person as chief protective service officer who will check on each school’s readiness. This will not be an added person but a reorganized job. Perhaps our Sheriffs[sic] Dept. can assist in this task of school readiness.
6. Share the best security practices in Dutchess County Schools by convening reps of all districts once per year. A good idea in Dover can become a best practice in Beacon.
This won’t involve any additional personnel eh? Does anyone really believe that? Because what I foresee is a protective service officer assigned to each school, with a district-wide coordinator in the central office.
You’d then have to have liaisons between the coordinator’s office and the local LEOs, plus liaison officers and coordinators for liaising and coordinating across districts. You’d need ‘best practice’ managers to recognize these best practices and share them. Then you’d have the inevitable secretaries and diversity program coordinators, HR people and accounting … reminds me of the old joke about the government junkyard. Good thing this idea won’t cost anything.
7. Recent reports suggest the perpetrators were severely bullied as students. Let’s energize out anti-bullying efforts.
Here’s a tip, Don… lots of people were bullied in school. I was often picked last for sports teams, ridiculed for playing Dungeons and Dragons, mocked for my love of reading and, to top it off, the Homecoming Queen wouldn’t dance with me at Prom! But I didn’t climb the clock-tower with a sniper rifle, nor did I march into the cafeteria with Dad’s shotgun. So let’s drop the “bullying” B.S., okay?
Finally, Don trots out his big idea for “arming” teachers:
It is not perfect but it could also be used by school personnel. It is safer than a gun, or nothing at all, which is what the brave teachers in Connecticut had.
Which is a pretty sad commentary on our society when you think about it. But settle down, here comes the big idea. You can just feel the anticipation building, can’t you?
It is low tech, very inexpensive, non lethal and does not require a practice range to become proficient. It does not conflict with the second amendment nor does it oppose NRA beliefs. This solution is a $3 can of wasp spray …
Got that? The big fix for safeguarding our kids while confined to gun free zones is a can of Yard Guard.
Just a couple of problems there, Don. First, the longest range wasp sprays I’ve seen are only good out to about 30 feet. Guns, on the other hand, generally have more range than that. Second, in order to be effective, your a spritz of Raid has to hit the shooter’s eyes; bullets are known to be quite effective when striking almost anywhere in the head or torso areas. Third, an upraised hand or arm can block wasp spray, but tend to be less effective deflecting bullets.
So although he doesn’t seem to realize it, Don’s made a great case for what Wayne LaPierre was ridiculed for saying and what President Obama was applauded for saying; the best way to stop an armed bad guy is with an armed good guy.
Just please — for the sake of the children — arm your good guy with something more than wasp spray.