Time To Tighten Up Our Schools

The community of Newtown, Conn., and the entire country is still mourning the recent tragedy that occurred at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. This horrific event, again, raises the question, “Are school districts and communities doing enough to protect children as they go to school – the place that should be a safe haven for them to go, learn, play and be protected?”

Schools have increased security in ways. Doors are kept locked. Cameras have been installed, but tragedies still occur. Maybe this most recent senseless act of evil needs to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Maybe it’s time to firmly tighten up our schools.

Government buildings, airports, even sports stadiums and arenas, have installed bag and body scanners, and metal detectors. Then they double check by hiring additional security to wand people who enter their doors or gates; yet most schools have a system where anyone can be buzzed into a building and enter without being scanned or searched.

Maybe it’s time to install metal detectors in every school and have not one, but two trained persons on duty at every school in the nation, and allow only two entrances to be used in each building – with one of those people at each one. All bags should be checked as teachers, guests, parents and students pass through them, and every school should be equipped with wands that can be used by trained personnel, if necessary.

All people entering schools should have to remove hats, hoods, sunglasses or anything else that may block any part of their faces. More cameras should be placed around all buildings, and every person entering a school should be thoroughly checked before being allowed to enter.

Is this overreacting? Is this overprotection? Is this a panic move?

I don’t think, in the wake of what has happened far too often in our schools, we can overreact or overprotect, and this is not panic, but a strong precaution. Schools must be safe havens for children. They must be places where kids can enter and feel the blanket of protection wrap around them and know that they don’t have to fear that anything bad can happen to them while they are there.

The big concern with any or all of these measures will undoubtedly be the cost of changes like this. When are we going to stop putting price tags on our children and start to figure out ways to cut some of the ridiculous spending on things far down the list of importance than the security of our children, and put that money into these measures of protection for our kids?

There are a number of positions within school districts which can be consolidated or shared with neighboring districts, thus cutting costs – with this money then used toward security. There are ways to reduce costs of sporting events without reducing numbers of contests played, but reducing how and when contests are scheduled, which could reduce spending, which could be used for more security. There could be “pay for play” fees for extracurricular activities with that money reducing some athletic, music, or club costs and the money saved put into the “improved security” fund.

Each and every employee of a school district could look at a 100 percent, across-the-board pay freeze for a year, and use whatever raise they were projected to receive through their negotiated contract for that year, for stricter security measures in our schools.

Each state can, and should, review uses and distribution of school aid, making security one of the most important, if not the most important, priority in the disbursement of that aid.

Each community must realize the importance of improved security in our schools and hire more police and security personnel as school resource people, sharing the costs with taxpayers and schools, working in partnership toward providing more security for our kids. And the nation needs to realize that assault weapons (not all weapons) must be banned except for on-duty use by law enforcement and military personnel.

There are ways to fund this, but it will take sacrifice, cooperation, compromise, tightening of belts and an effort by everyone to make this happen, but isn’t the reason for it worth any, or all, or even more than all, of that sacrifice, cooperation, compromise, belt tightening, and effort that we could possibly expend?

What more will it take before we do anything, and everything, we can to protect our kids so the types of tragedies that occurred in Newtown; Columbine, Colo.; Jonesboro, Ark.; Nickel Mines, Pa.; Santee, Calif.; Chardon, Ohio; Springfield, Ore.; Jacksboro, Tenn.; Cleveland; Deming, N.M.; Fort Gibson, Okla.; Mount Morris Township, Mich.; Baltimore; Granite Hills, Calif.; Caro, Mich.; Essex, Vt.; Cazenovia, Wis.; Tuscon, Ariz.; Blacksburg, Va. (twice); Memphis, Tenn.; Columbus, Ohio; Houston, Texas; Jacksonville, Fla.; Moses Lake, Wash.; Bethel, Ark.; Pearl, Miss.; West Paducah, Ky.; Stamps, Ark.; Edinboro, Pa.; Fayetteville, Tenn.; Littleton, Colo.; Conyers, Ga.; Dover, Del.; Savannah, Ga.; Lake Worth, Fla.; New Orleans, La.; Williamsport, Pa.; Gary, Ind.; New York City; Red Lake, Minn.; Bailey, Colo.; Tacoma, Wash.; Baton Rouge, La.; Oxnard, Calif.; Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Huntsville, Ala.; Madison, Ala.; Omaha, Neb.; DeKalb, Ill.; San Jose, Calif.; and Oakland, Calif., all places where school-related shootings have occurred since February 1996, don’t happen again?

In the wake of the recent tragedy in Newtown, government officials have come out and said that it is not acceptable for us to deal with this type of tragedy on a monthly basis. Right now the ratio since 1996 is once every 3.9 months. That’s too close to being once a month.

It’s time to do everything we can to beef up our security and protect, as much as we can, the greatest gift we can possibly have, our children.