The following is a guest blog post by an American high school teacher, a person I know, who wishes to remain anonymous. — Ted Rall
Nicholas Cruz got his gun legally. So did Adam Lanza. So did Steve Paddock. So do most shooters.
Short of taking everyone’s guns, which is not going to happen and which will just drive the underground market for guns, what can society do about these disaffected kids who want to shoot up their schools?
The premise of the school where I teach is that we cannot prevent shootings; all we can do is minimize casualties. Think about that for a moment and think about how far we are pulling back the line. We are acknowledging that one day there will be a shooting, some kids will get shot and some will die. There is no stopping it.
We train with that idea in mind. We practice barricading the room and fighting back. We discuss running away. Gone are the lockdowns where we herd a class to the back of the room, turn off the lights and pretend we’re not there.
The FBI has told us that does not work. All public schools in the United States have a security plan which is constantly being updated. Administrators are in touch with the police. FBI agents have probably met with your school’s officials.
Of course, in some public schools, kids routinely come into the building armed with guns and knives. These kids know that people know who they are and that they’ll be caught. They will finish their business out on the street. These are the schools where we don’t want metal detectors. We don’t want to disarm the people who can take an active shooter out.
I teach in one of these schools and have never felt unsafe. Perhaps that’s foolishness. Kids aren’t after me; they’re after each other. Occasionally, someone gets unhinged. One year, I had a kid whose computer kept getting unplugged by other students. “I’m about to go full psycho!” he screamed. Not a tad. Not a smidge. Full-on psycho. The student was removed and later outplaced.
Teachers here carry distress buttons that are wired in to the police station so that a swat team can be dispatched immediately. So far we have not used them. My school has its problems, but it is in my hometown, where kids have too much money, parents don’t pay attention, and administrators brush problems under the rug that I would be afraid to teach. Given what I know about public schools, I would not teach in an affluent one. I’d find another way to make a living.
I don’t want to get shot. I’m not a hero and neither are my friends. As much as we admire men like Aaron Feis and Peter Wang, the two men who died saving others in Florida, I’m sorry parents, we are probably not those teachers. We’re out.
And while the media rightly focuses attention on those two heroes, as well as myriad other issues related to the shooting, there is a big question that thus far has gone unexplored.
How did Nicholas Cruz get in that high school?
He had been expelled and was reported to the FBI.
A massive security breach occurred when Cruz walked into that building. The school administration needs to do an investigation and be transparent about its findings. If there was a breach in protocol, then someone needs to be fired, perhaps held criminally negligent.
Negligence is a massive liability so the school district will try to cover up any investigation if it heads in that direction. But someone needs to be accountable.
School districts need to be responsible for your child’s security. So do you. Pay attention to your kid and what he is up to just the way you pay attention to his academics and extracurricular activities.
Just as a responsible parent is involved in their child’s education, you will need to be involved in making sure your child’s school stays safe.
Have a look around the school building itself. Walk around it. Are there points of access where you can enter unobserved? Are there doors propped open or unlocked? Talk to your child. They know these points as well as places to hide better than teachers. They also know what kid might go “full-psycho” better than a teacher would.
Do you need photo I.D. to get in the building? Are you escorted to and from your destination? How many police officers does your school have? Are there security guards at the entrances? Does the school have cameras? Do staff carry distress buttons? Will administration let you sit in on the school safety committee and offer an opinion? If not, why?
If, God forbid, there is a shooting, what happens? Do you want your child running madly through the halls, trying to escape? If you don’t want to arm the teachers, do you want them to have glass cutters to break the windows out and fold-up ladders for those not on a ground floor?
Are there things that you can do to improve your school’s security? In a town adjacent to the one where I live, mothers take turns patrolling the perimeter of their child’s elementary school so that trouble does not enter the building.
These question matter not if someone wants to shoot up your child’s school, but when.