Reader T. von Rosen writes:
My dear state of Texas was the unfortunate site of the most recent mass murder by a student at a public school. In response to this tragedy, our Governor held a series of discussions about how to prevent such crimes in the future and came away with a list of outcomes. I would like to share the following ten ideas as ways to improve security at schools now.
1. Teach with classroom doors closed and locked
This is perhaps the easiest strategy to implement. Teaching with closed doors prevents (or at least significantly inhibits) unauthorized access to classrooms. There are many examples, both in schools and universities, as well as in countless other locations and situations, where something as simple as a locked door has prevented access by a mass murderer to a room where more potential victims helplessly awaited their fate.
2. Replace all existing door locks with heavy-duty, bullet-resistant versions
This is perhaps the least expensive school safety option to implement. All door locks should be heavy-duty, bullet-resistant designs. They should open from the outside (i.e. hallway) with a key, and from inside with the mere turn of a handle. When seconds count, the more difficult it is for a criminal to gain access to potential victims, the better.
3. Replace classroom doors
While we are replacing existing door locks with heavy-duty versions, let’s go ahead and replace the doors themselves. Stronger doors with reinforced mounting hardware will increase the difficulty of mass murderers opening classroom doors to gain access to more victims.
4. Install panic buttons (or other technology, maybe an app) to communicate a firearms emergency
Teachers and other classroom staff, as well as all other campus employees (librarians, custodians, cafeteria workers, counselors, etc.) should have access to an immediate and unambiguous way to communicate a firearms emergency — separate and distinct from a fire alarm — to school leaders and law enforcement.
5. Use simple, plain language
Cease the use of special code words or phrases in schools to communicate instructions during a crisis. For example, don’t say “code red” when the campus needs to be evacuated. Instead, say “evacuate the building!” Code words and phrases cause hesitation and confusion. When seconds count, any delay can be deadly.
6. Implement strict dress codes
Sorry, kids. Your wearing trench coats and hoodies in the summer just ended. Our leaders who are so eager in the face of school mass murders to infringe on Second Amendment rights, but they need to instead restrict a few other “rights” in order to keep weapons out of school buildings.
Freedom of expression, as reflected in dress codes, needs to be restricted. Similarly, to decrease the ability of these twisted murderers to hide guns and sneak them into schools. It may also mean using only clear plastic backpacks and random checks of cases for band instruments and athletic gear, etc.
While many liberals will (mistakenly) cry foul at the top of their lungs over this “infringement” of their children’s First Amendment freedoms, let’s turn their own argument on them. If it saves just one life…we must do it for the good of our children.
7. They are not “school shooters”
When describing persons who commit such heinous crimes, we need to call them “child mass murderers” for that is exactly what they are. “Shooter” is far too respectable a term for such criminals. Olympic firearms competitors are shooters. Members of the USAMU (United States Army Marksmanship Unit) are shooters.
To murder a child is one of the worst possible crimes – so let’s call those who commit such wicked and detestable acts exactly what they are: Child. Mass. Murderers.
8. Increase uncertainty about armed school employees
Gun-free zones are magnets for mass murderers. This has been proven time and again. Thus, our schools need a new strategy aimed at adding uncertainty in the minds of these potential monsters.
For example, we should post warning signs at every school which state that school staff are trained, prepared and ready to use any means necessary to protect their students, whether they’re actually armed or not. Consider making school board discussions, debates, and decisions about whether to permit certain employees to carry firearms on campus confidential…not subject to open records requests.
Most child mass murderers don’t want to die. We can introduce doubt in the minds of potential child mass murderers that they might well meet their creator if they decide to embark on a killing spree at schools may well reduce the possibility of their doing so.
9. Change inter-governmental relationships
This may be the most difficult strategy of all to implement, since it goes to the core of power and relationships between certain governmental institutions. We need to re-think and re-imagine how various governments (city, county, school entity, etc.) work together to increase school security and, as an added bonus, reduce overall governmental costs.
One example? Require that all high schools with more than a certain number of students (say, 2000) must include a law enforcement storefront on the premises. Whether the law enforcement agency is city, county, state, or something else, building a 24-7 manned storefront into high schools ensures improved security and safety.
A 2000-student high school is the population of many small town and burgs. Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School has over 3000 students. Joint funding between governmental entities, for strategies such as law enforcement storefronts, could reduce overall costs for all involved.
Offering free coffee at schools to law enforcement officers, in the hope that such will encourage officers to stop more frequently, isn’t enough. Instead, simply build a law enforcement office into each high school. When seconds count, we can’t afford to wait for officers who may be miles away to drive to schools to respond.
Similarly, every high school of a certain size should have its own mini clinic. The clinic, like clinics now in drug stores and grocery stores, should be able to handle and diagnose minor emergencies. A merging of public health facilities and public schools would decrease absenteeism (no need to leave school to get a minor issue, such as an upper respiratory infection, diagnosed), would build stronger bonds between schools and their local communities, and would serve as another possible means to identify at-risk students.
Similarly, school cafeterias could serve meals to senior citizens. This would encourage (much-needed) volunteerism and community participation by retired persons at our schools. Seniors could serve as mentors, and could build bonds with students. Retired military and law enforcement seniors could aid in assisting as school security volunteers.
10. It’s not about guns
Note that none of these strategies involves guns or further infringement of Second Amendment rights. While delicate sensibilities will be terrified by the rest of this sentence, back in my Father’s day, he and his friends regularly brought .22 rimfire rifles to school with them. The principal would hold their rifles, then return them at the end of the day, so that my father and his friends could hunt on the long walk back home. Whatever they shot, such as rabbits, would be dinner that evening or the next.
If guns were the problem, there would have been countless school shootings and murders back then. The fact that there wasn’t shows that it’s we who have changed. We need to take a long, hard, critical look at the society and environment we’ve created, and work hard to overcome the factors that may contribute to shootings at schools.
Note that the first eight of these suggestions are both actionable and relatively inexpensive to implement. In contrast — and I state this only to identify possible challenges in implementation, the devil is always in the details — consider the idea of metal detectors in public schools. When I hear that idea, I always think of the TSA and how is that working for out for us?
The TSA created a huge new and expensive bureaucracy, causes enormously long lines and many delays, and yet third-party government inspectors regularly get guns and other banned items past their checkpoints. Are schools going to be scanning every backpack and lunch bag? Where will “positive” students get patted down? Will we be strip-searching “positive” students? Are we going to ban any liquid over four ounces? How many employees at each secure entrance will we need, and how long would we expect it to take 2,000 students to file through a TSA-style secure entrance and get to class?
If you’re not willing and/or able to implement pat-downs, well, then you’re missing the whole point of installing metal detectors in the first place. It does no good to identify something a potential threat if you’re unable to figure out what tripped the scanner. And get ready for the public outcry and lawsuits if you pat down someone’s little angel.
I appreciate TTAG’s willingness to allow my additions to the discussion about improving school security, and hope that the points I’ve raised will, even in a minor way, help contribute to the safety of our children at school.