Making our Schools Safer From Violence
Michael T. Charles, Ph.D. MPA
The Connecticut school massacre of late has brought school safety back to national attention, and a vigorous and heated debate has ensued. Those on the left, under the guise of being progressive liberals have unashamedly so politicized this tragic event in an all out effort to take away our Second Amendment rights, that they have become blind to the overriding issue of our childrens’ safety. Hence, their almost fanatical ideological mindset is blinding them to reasonable and workable security measures and unnecessarily dividing citizens on the non-issue of gun bans. The situation that they have created is, most importantly, not producing any serious advancements in either school or personal safety. Remember Rahm Emanuel’s now famous remark, “You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.” This philosophy has now been applied to our right to self-defense via proposed legislated “gun bans” calling for what the left would like you to believe creates passive and safe “gun free zones”. To some the left’s rhetoric sounds appealing; however, they are doing nothing more that pushing their political agenda and taking our attention off of where the real debate and discussion should be, and that is workable safety measures for our schools. The gun ban issue is nothing but a cleverly designed red herring by the left to push their agenda instead of protecting our children. The left’s obsession with “gun bans” and calling for “gun free zones” only creates “soft targets” for criminals to attack and “kill zones” that result in the massacre of our children and teachers in schools. The school gun free zones implemented by the left over the years has been an abysmal failure, but what do they continue to ask for. The left continues to as for gun free zones and laws that disallow law abiding citizens the ability to protect themselves, families, and others. Their answers to Violence do, however, allow criminals to have whatever offensive weapons they choose at the expense of their victims. How many Columbines, Sandy Hook Elementaries, Lone Star College North Harris campus, Hazard Community and Technical College in Hazard, Kentucky, Northern Illinois University, massacres of children, teachers, and college students must we endure before our politicians on the left seriously address school violence?
These tragic incidents of death and carnage are not to be considered as Rahm Emanuel wants to proceed as a “serious crisis” you do not want to go to waste in order to push the political agenda of the left from the White House to the state house. The safety of our children and teachers should be thought of as a serious responsibility to do all we can to protect ourselves and our children from the violent acts of disturbed violent and murderous criminals. The left should not be promoting fear of guns and playing to the emotions of concerned parents for the purpose of pushing their anti-gun legislation, or for the purpose of gaining votes for the next election. Fortunately, we have made some progress in school safety over the years; however, this is not a feel good subject that can be superficially addressed as it has so many times in the past. There are no easy answers, and not everyone wants to hear the truth, but we must look toward workable solutions, not the rhetoric and failed policies of the past if we want to protect our schools.
Of course, the left, under the protection of their politically correct umbrella, want you to believe that gun bans and gun free zones will make our children safer, which, as history has born out, they will not. In truth they are merely looking for excuses to take away our right of self-defense. By doing so they are putting our children in harms way. The left will also assure us that they are not trying to take away any of our Constitutional rights, but, in fact, that is their clear intention. Many on the left clearly do not understand what they are proposing, but it sounds good. They are simply uninformed and are following their misguided and in some cases intellectually dishonest idealogues, and nefarious leadership. Proposing ludicrous gun legislation that will gain them votes, advance their political agenda, gain them attention among their constituents, and do nothing to protect us is not what we as parents and constituents want. We want honest and well informed politicians that will put their efforts into bringing us together and finding workable security solutions for our children and teachers.
At this juncture let us put our biases aside, open our minds, and look at the issue of school safety logically. What works and what does not work? In truth that is the only single question that deserves our attention when we discuss and implement school safety measures for our children, teachers and staff. This review of school safety measures is just that a synopsis of school safety issues. School administrators needing assistance in a security audit need to contact their local police and professional school security advisors, as needed, for professional advice and assistance. Thus, this effort is nothing more or less than a reminder to professionals and a basic introduction to the security issues for the neophyte. If we do not understand the issues of school security we can easily be swayed in the wrong direction by ideologues and political demagogues using this crisis to push their ideology not our childrens’ safety.
Before we begin we have to understand several overriding issues. First, there is no one right way, exclusive answer, or perfect combination of security measures that will totally protect our children in school. Second, sometimes, we do not know the answer fully and even well thought out security measures can have negative consequences given the right set of negative circumstances. Third, all we can truly expect is to do our best to make our schools safer and less likely to be successfully attacked by a disturbed gunman intent upon harming our children. Fourth, also, keep in mind that security in our schools is not solely designed for that rare tragic incident. Building and personal security measures at schools are constrained by necessary organizational operations to include teaching and movement of students within the school proper, and the legitimate ingress and egress of school buildings themselves. Fifth, there are also environmental concerns, such as a pleasant, clean, and open learning environment that must be considered in the school’s architecture. We do not want to create a prison for our children by having such a secure environment and building that learning is hindered, movement is too constrained, and/or the environment is so dreary and dark that no one wants to be in the school. Interestingly, often architects and teachers are at odds with security experts because their recommendations are seen as too draconian and contrary to the teaching function. However, it is important to note that architects, much as armored car manufactures and designers, have come a long way in being able to integrate security measures seamlessly into the original design. Companies have also become quite adept at retrofitting poorly designed structures to enhance security and personal safety. This is not only very encouraging, but it provides a variety of security options for deliberation and study. All these considerations must be reviewed when designing a complex school security system. Sixth, do not expect everyone to agree on the final security solution for the school, or assume that security concerns, or responses to these concerns are static in nature. Security measures continue to evolve to meet new threats and concerns that present themselves at the most inopportune time and under the most adverse conditions.
The Role of Security
While tragic, the truth of the matter is that, overall, few schools are actually subject to Violence; however, one cannot deny the tragedy, senselessness, or deep loss of such massacres. It is, however, the dire tragedy of such events that has spurred advances in school safety measures. In fact, much has changed regarding school safety since Columbine High School. Police have changed their tactics in dealing with incidents of Violence in schools, schools have taken additional precautions to include, when they can afford such measures, the hiring of school resource officers, both armed and unarmed. Legislatures in various states have implemented new laws, and school districts have enhanced and expanded their safety protocols. Such security efforts have, overall, enhanced safety in a variety of ways in that they have helped to discourage kidnappings, reduce school violence, bullying, disruptions, drug sales, family disturbances, and the trespassing of individuals into the school that would create adverse conditions requiring police or security officer assistance; however, new threats require continued advancements in security and the way in which we view security today.
So, what is, or should be, the process for evaluating and improving security measures for a school? Given the complex nature of school security a security expert must be involved in the process. With the input of the client the security professional must, evaluate potential and actual threats, their likelihood, and consider these facts in conjunction with likely possible outcomes, given different security strategies. Once these factors have been considered and set out the client, in this case the school, and the security expert can choose a system of measures that the school can afford and school officials feel reach the security level they are willing to accept. Again, keep in mind that no security system, regardless, is 100% secure. Selecting a security system for a school, as with any facility, is always a balance between such factors as acceptable risk, safety, cost, functionality, and individual preferences.
Keep in mind that the security for a building has three major functions: to protect occupants, assets, and the building itself. To do this experts concur that hardening the target, i.e., making both the exterior and interior of the school difficult for an intruder to breach is the goal of security. If the first lines of defense fail, and the intruder gains entrance into the building itself then tertiary security measures in the interior of the building are there to provide the final line of defense until additional help arrives. As with the exterior security measures internal security measures should help to protect occupants first, then assets within the building and the structure last. Consequently, offices, classrooms and other areas where students, teachers, and staff work and play take first priority in security design and is critical to a safe environment. Once the exterior of the building is breached two issues become paramount. First, how do you lock down classrooms, offices, gymnasiums, etc., so that the intruder cannot gain access to occupants. Second, what are the escape routes for occupants to extricate themselves from the building to safety. The security advisor must consider not only the physical structure in this regard, but emergency/disaster plans specifically spelling out exactly how each of the two concerns above are activated and achieved. It is important to understand that emergency/disaster plans have to be sufficiently dynamic, as do security measures, to allow for successful execution under any number of emergency scenarios, e.g., fire, gunman, tornados, and so forth.
In the school setting, however, you also have to be concerned with outdoor athletic fields, sports events and arenas, busses, and off school property locations where student sponsored activities take place. Already, we find that current colloquy and bickering among our politicians on the left has excluded most of these school use areas in their discussions on school safety. Their only interest seems to be gun bans. Let us not forget the Chowchilla, CA bus kidnapping of 26 children in 1976, or the 2013, murder of bus driver Charles Poland, and the kidnapping of five year old – Ethan in Dale County, Alabama. Building security is being addressed here largely, comments regarding the security of other school properties and responsibilities are touched upon only briefly.
Whether considering enhancing security measures in an already erected school, or during the planning stages of a new building the issues remain the same. The difference lies in the fact that in the planning of a new build school you are not hindered by existing architecture designs, or conditions that negate school security. In looking at a school, security professionals will begin the process with a security audit. The security audit can be completed by the local police agency or private security firms. This simply means that they will carefully review the building, assets, and grounds to determine what strengths and weaknesses presently exist at the school and then they will make recommendations to enhance security to meet the threats, perceived and real, that school officials want to reduce. The security professionals will also review the disaster/security plan written and implemented by school officials that would direct individuals, i.e., teachers, students, staff, guests, etc., on what they are to do and where they are to go under various crisis events. The disaster/security plan is a document that is updated, or should be, on a regular basis to coincide with new security measures, building alterations, and so forth. The disaster/security plan is, however, useful, only if there is regular training and practice drills taking place at the school.
Typical security recommendations, are provided below. The recommendations discussed below provide a good overview of what measures schools presently take to protect our children and what needs to be done to enhance their security given the variety of school designs, age, and condition of our schools. Remember there is no single security plan that fits every school, but there are certain basic security measures that are effective and often easily implemented. The following discussion is not designed to consider all possible security measures that can take place, but to provide a general overview of security designs that are effective. This will provide the reader with a good background of possible security measures; however, it is only through a security audit of each school facility that school administrators can make informed security decisions.
In this section we will begin by briefly discussing two highly vulnerable security areas in schools and then proceed to provide a succinct overview of other security concerns and measures. Importantly, it is often the least secure aspect of the building that gunman will capitalize upon and that will fail during other disaster scenarios. When a security audit is undertaken and measures are implemented, the disaster plan and physical security measures built into the school and added later must be such that they consider the wide variety of disaster scenarios that can and do challenge the building structure and people inside.
Exterior and Interior Doors
Certainly, the door is the most obvious entry point to any building or room and is often the most vulnerable point of entry to a building or inside spaces. External doors should be locked at all times and critical internal doors should be locked, or have the ability to be locked quickly as needed. However, in any security design it is critical that no security measure should interfere with the ability of occupants to escape because of a fire, gunman, or other disaster event. Escape always has to be an option for occupants.
Door hinges should be on the inside to stop a potential intruder from simply popping the hinge pins for entrance. Exterior hinges, if they exist, should be welded. Doors should be sturdy enough to withstand blows and locks, door frames, and accessory hardware must be equally sturdy to withstand attack. The issue becomes how secure does the owner of the building want the door. The range is quite variable and the costs progressively higher as the door, door frames, and associated hardware become increasingly resistant to forced entry. The weakest point of the door will be the first structure to fail. Doors with vision panels that are easily broken provide little security for occupants and should be taken out and replaced with a more resilient option; further, transoms should be securely sealed, and taken out completely if affordable. If a school concern is a gunman or multiple gunmen gaining access to the building classrooms, school library, offices, and other areas where students, teachers, and staff would be expected to be, then doors have to be able to withstand gunfire, remember Lanza shot his way through the glass front door of Sandy Hook Elementary, otherwise the facility provides little or no internal protection to occupants. Hiding under desks will not serve as much of a deterrent to a murderer.
In conjunction with hardening the building itself school administrators must work closely with local law enforcement officials in the development of their emergency/disaster plan. It is crucial that the responding police department work closely with each school, so that both parties understand how the police will respond to various disaster events including a gunman, and how quickly they can begin to have officers on scene. However, no school should build their security solely or largely upon police response times to a man with a gun situation. Sandy Hook is a prime example of the amount of carnage that can be caused in a very short time frame. Time is not on the side of the occupants of the building, but that of the gunman. Security in the building must be such that they can stop the indiscriminate killing of our children, teachers, and staff within the school, and quickly.
Windows pose another high security risk in school buildings. All exterior windows can be wired with an alarm as can doors and other possible points of entry. Windows on the exterior that can be opened to the outside need to be locked securely from the inside. Many school windows today, however, do not open and they are quite resistant to forced entry. There are many advantages to this type of window, but they do preclude an escape route for students to the outside. In addition, many K-12 schools also have interior windows in their classrooms facing the interior hallways of the building. Such building designs create an open and overall happy environment and feeling for occupants, which is just the type of environment teachers want to help their young students learn and prosper. However, while these interior windows do not open and can withstand strong blows before breaking, those windows facing the interior and exterior of the building do fail and they are likely not to be bullet proof. Not only can these windows be breached, but they allow the intruder to see into the interior rooms. This feature in modern school buildings presents a serious security concern. There, of course, are engineering security options available to retrofit these security concerns, but they are expensive and they change the school environment dramatically.
An option that might be available to school administrators in such buildings is to move students to secure rooms in the building where there are no windows and strong doors and locks. This is often the gymnasium, or bathrooms. The problem is that the gunman, or other disaster could strike so quickly that there is not time to take advantage of the secure room or rooms. Further, what happens if a gunman breaches the secure room which is full of children, their teachers, and staff members? Mass murder. You have the same situation here as you would have if they breach a classroom full of children and teachers.
This situation brings up yet another important point in the security scenario. What if the gunman or gunmen are students of the school, as was the case in the Columbine High School shootings? Exterior protection is of no value and the students will know of any inside security measures and building design. Such incidents provide little or no warning, occupants have few options, and they have no recourse to protect themselves in most schools except to hide in closets, cabinets, and bathrooms, and for teachers to protect their children with their own bodies as was the case in Sandy Hook Elementary. Once the basic security measures and procedures are breached protection options become very limited. At this point outcomes are largely based on luck, the quick wit of occupants, and the brave souls attempts to save the children and one another. In other words, the occupants are almost totally at the mercy of the intruder and his/her design. This is basically a helpless scenario, which was the exact situation that was present in Columbine, Sandy Hook, and the Midland City, Alabama bus murder and child abduction, to name but three. Armed personnel are the only remaining option at this point to save lives.
In disaster management one of this first things we teach is that no two disasters are exactly alike and that in planning, professionals must look at and consider all possible scenarios and provide people with the widest number of possible options. Disasters have the worst habit of occurring at the most inopportune times and under the most difficult of conditions. Disasters simply never seem to happen when we are fully prepared to deal with them. And, if that is not enough it is as if disasters act and react such that they are either unfamiliar with our precisely laid out plans, or they simply enjoy thwarting our survival efforts. The best lesson to be learned in disaster management is flexibility in planning and response, and exhausting all available safety options. Closing off options such as armed personnel in the building, dramatically increases risk not the reverse as the left would have you to believe; hence, careful attention must be afforded to refusals to utilize particular options.
General Security Issues and Measures
As noted earlier individuals performing security audits and preparing disaster plans and procedures must not only consider the rare event of gunmen attacking the school, but all other forms of threat. Of necessity, this includes break ins during non-business hours, digital data storage security, building contents, school properties, vehicle fleet, theft, and athletic facilities to name but a few. Well thought out plans, however, contain overlapping security measures. This means: one, security measures protect for more than one disaster scenario; and two, security measures overlap, which quite simply means that if one system fails another security measure has the opportunity to detect and/or thwart the threat. Again, we will concentrate on school building proper security measures here.
External Security. In any properly designed school security system security begins at the outside perimeter of the building. Appropriate security options include open spaces, landscaped berms, fencing, walls, gates, surveillance equipment such as closed-circuit TV, lighting, and armed security personnel. The use of precast concrete bollards used for traffic control; keeping vehicles a safe distance from the building; and stopping intruders from using vehicles to penetrate the building proper to gain access, or to place a car bomb. They also protect pedestrians from vehicle traffic accidents.
The outside of the building is also considered part of the perimeter. We have already discussed the importance of doors and windows and the need for intrusion resistant doors. Locked doors with magnetic locks and security cameras at the entrance are important as are armed security personnel to ensure that those entering the building have legitimate business inside and to stop those that do not. A buzzer system at the door in conjunction with a camera and microphone system can be incorporated as can encoded locks and card readers, or more sophisticated biometric devices. The use of identification cards for teachers and staff, and proper identification for those picking up students and wanting entrance into the building is important. Structural hardening and protective glazing on windows can help. A Secure roof protecting roof openings and air intakes, protection from access via nearby buildings, and requiring key/keycard/code access provisions to the roof and other areas of the building are important. Alarms can be installed as can video motion sensors be employed to detect movement or broken glass. Make sure that everyone understands the function and importance of your security to include access controls and interior controls in the building, to better ensure their compliance. However, do not communicate your security system per se; thus, giving criminals too much knowledge of your security system and, thus, allow them easier access into your facility.
Interior Security. Once in the interior of the building, the third line of defense begins in earnest. If an intruder has managed to thwart the perimeter security measures this becomes your last line of defense. At this point the gunman can begin his carnage unencumbered if there are no armed security personnel. However internal protocols are important to the overall security of the facility.
All visitors during business hours should be met by trained armed security personnel and be required to sign in and issued a visitor’s badge to be worn at all times while they are in the building. This procedure is common in both public and private buildings. Halls should be monitored/patrolled throughout the day to ensure compliance and to detect any suspicious or illegal behavior. Individuals without badges should be confronted, their purpose identified, and sent to the badging area for a badge, or other appropriate action taken. Appropriate communication systems should be available to staff and teachers, so they they can contact appropriate personnel, or be contacted as needed. A panic button system can be incorporated, so that all building occupants are appraised of an emergency situation concurrently and quickly. Inside video surveillance equipment is helpful and security scanners at the entrance might be needed.
Presently, a new online security software is being developed with the support of Applied Science Foundation for Homeland Security. This software system is called Project SAFEguard and, when completed, will be designed to assist first responders, to include ambulances, fire departments, and police with building, operations, and schematics information. This project, when completed could be a valuable aid to the community and its schools. Certainly, officials should review this software to determine its value to their emergency services providers and schools.
The Final Defense. You have noted above that armed security personnel were included in the security package for schools. It is here that some feel uncomfortable, feel that it is expensive, or simply do not want armed security in their schools. Refusing the armed option results in death as we have seen in so many school massacres. I take you back to our earlier discussion regarding the left’s agenda concerning gun control. It is a petty agenda and argument when placed beside the safety of our children. We have our Second Amendment and the right and moral duty to protect ourselves, family, and others. When a gunman comes to the school police are not there unless they are part of the security system. We have seen time and again the disastrous results of not having armed personnel in a school attacked by a disturbed gunman intent upon the massacre of our children, teachers, and staff. The final defense is the force provided by a firearm. Excluding that defense measure costs lives.
Some parents are simply afraid of guns and do not want their children anywhere near guns of any kind and that is why they oppose guns in schools and why they support gun free school zones, which are not gun free when disturbed murders enter the premises, but kill zones. The truth of the matter, however, is that there children are “around guns” frequently since there are over 270M privately owned guns, over 3M military guns, and over 1.5M guns owned by law enforcement. Many homeowners have guns in their houses, citizens carry concealed handguns, and business owners often retain a weapon in their place of business for protection. Hence, the decision for those opposed to guns in schools for the protection of their children and other innocent occupants is emotional and/or ideological in nature, not logic based. A gun free zone does not equate to safe, or suggest that occupants are safe from Violence while in a school gun free zone. All that it means is that if a deranged gunman chooses not to come into a school to kill, then and only then are our children safe from Violence. This is not the helpless situation you want your children to be in during a crisis event, I am sure. So, why allow such a condition to exist? Keep in mind the various security measures discussed above can and should be incorporated, but when they are successfully breached what is left?
We have discussed above the helpless situation that students and teachers were in during the Columbine and Sandy Hook mass murders. All available security measures had failed and when they had failed few options were left for the poor souls being massacred. Our children we helpless and teachers and staff could do very little to save them or themselves. Consider this for a moment. If you personally, were in the same situation as the teachers at Sandy Hook putting children behind you, so that the shooter would have to shoot you first in the hopes that it would save the child, how would you feel? At such a moment would you rethink your position, assuming you are in opposition to armed security, on having trained personnel with guns in the school? Would you regret your earlier opposition knowing that you and the children could have been saved if armed security were allowed in the school? Something that is not publicized too frequently by the left media or politicians is that Lanza committed suicide once armed first responders arrived. It was the armed responders that stopped the killings, not the good will of the killer, teachers begging the gunman not to kill the children or them, or any other security measures.
As discussed above this issue of armed security personnel in our schools has become muddled because of ideological positions against guns and pro gun ban legislation on the part of the left. It is important to note that there have been many historical leaders that zealously supported gun control as does the political left. These leaders include Hitler, Castro, Qaddafi, Stalin, Idi Amin, Mao Tse Tung, Pol Pot, and Kim Jong IL all of which killed millions of helpless and unarmed men women and children to advance their political agendas. Hopefully, we are beginning to discover the folly of left’s radical position, their deceit; selfish position they have taken; and the dangerous unfavorable situation they want to leave men, women, and our, and what they apparently do not see their, children. Again, we must go back to the central question of what works?
Guns in School. Utah, although most do not know, has allowed teachers and staff to conceal carry in Utah schools for over the last 12 years. During that time not one massacre has occurred in a Utah school nor has one accident ensued as a result of such a policy. Neither teachers nor staff are required to carry a gun on school grounds, but they are given the option to choose. Further, a Utah permit holder is allowed to carry their loaded firearm into schools. In addition, teachers do not have to inform school administration, or police agencies, that they are exercising their rights as a permit holder to concealed carry in their school. In addition, 17 other states allow adults to carry guns on school grounds, and 12 additional states are considering such a change. This has brought about a firestorm of both criticism and support. However, in light of the fact that such laws have been in existence without incident why would we not extend such legislation? The answer is in political agendas not truly concerned with the protection of our children in schools. We are not talking about allowing armed murders into our school, they come in quite uninvited with criminal intent, but responsible adults wanting to protect themselves, our children, and others from vicious and mentally disturbed criminals.
A national teacher survey conducted by the School Improvement Network in January 2013, and released in March of 2013, was precipitated by the Sandy Hook massacre. Essentially the authors of the survey were curious to see if teachers and staff wanted to carry firearms in school or allow districts to hire armed security. While not having the appropriate data to determine the validity of the study we can still review the results and cautiously make some querying remarks. The findings indicate that 72.4% of the 10,661 teachers from all 50 states responding, indicated that they would not likely bring a firearm to school if allowed. However, 36.3% of educators surveyed report owning a firearm, 37.1% say they would be likely, or very likely to bring a gun to school if allowed. In addition, 91.6% of respondents said that they feel safe in school, but 31.1% believed that their schools were not safe from Violence.
It is good that teachers overwhelming feel safe. Feeling safe in the work environment is an important job place factor whether a school or other business; however, feeling safe does not necessarily equate to being safe, as Sandy Hook and other incidents attest. I feel confident that teachers and students both felt, overall, safe in Sandy Hook Elementary, at least until Mr. Lanza arrived. Such violence can occur in any school, in any state, at any time or day. If we knew when such incidents were to occur we simply would not be there, but we do not have that ability.
Most teachers do not want to bring guns to school and assume that responsibility. This is not surprising since their chosen profession is teaching not policing. However, many teachers are willing to provide added security to the school and their students by being armed. The question becomes, why would these teachers and staff members, willing to help, not be allowed to assist with the security function? In truth teachers and staff already play an important and viable role in school security and safety. After all they are being trusted with our children for a large part of the day. Though ill equipped, what do you think the teachers were doing in Sandy Hook as they were being mercilessly massacred? We cannot ask teachers to be murdered in defense of our children and not provide them the means to protect themselves and our children.
According to Kenneth Trump, President of National School Safety and Security Services, it is a bad idea to arm teachers and staff based upon implementation issues. What does he mean by that? Trump advocates that school districts would be exposing themselves to significant responsibility and liability issues that go beyond their expertise and professional capabilities if they allowed teachers and staff to carry guns. In truth school districts already have significant responsibility and liability issues revolving around the security and safety of students, teachers, staff, and visitors. In fact, not meeting minimum safety requirements can become a major liability for a school and the school district. As these threats to schools increase school administrators have the legal and moral obligation to advance security measures to meet these threats. While we might argue that they are reactive in many cases and not proactive in this regard, if they do not demonstrate reasonable steps to meet new threats they could be liable. Most school districts understand this responsibility and will not shirk from meeting their obligations legal and moral. The question is whether arming teachers and staff should be a part of their security, or if armed police or private security would prove a better alternative given the districts circumstances and available options.
Trump does continue his argument by providing a number of questions that the school district must address if they are to move in the direction of arming teachers and staff. For example, he asks if the school board has adequate policies and procedures in place for such action; what is their use of force continuum, what type(s) of firearms will teachers and staff be allowed to carry; will teachers and staff be allowed to carry their personal weapons, are they safe and functional; what type of firearm training will they receive; will the board build their own firing ranges; do they have firearms retention training; how will the school board deal with lost or stolen firearms? Trump is correct in asking these questions and they need answers by the school district. However, these are neither new issues, or questions that have not been answered by police departments, security firms, and university police and security forces. These issues must be addressed if the school/school board/school district determine that arming teachers and staff, and/or other security personnel is a viable option for them to take. However, such concerns do not negate the value of allowing teachers and staff to carry guns in school. These are the administrative questions that must be considered and answered as a security force is developed and designed. However, do not for a moment think that our schools and school boards are not in the security business because they are. The question only becomes how successful is the security system they have chosen?
Arming teachers and staff is one option not the entire, or only option. Certainly, a selection process for volunteers would be needed as would required training, certification, and recertification for any teacher or staff member becoming part of the armed security force, but this is easily accomplished. Schools can opt to go this direction, or say no to this safety option. However, many states are not allowing schools the ability to choose such a recourse. Would it not be a better option for the states to give local communities the ability to choose the safety alternatives they want for their children? Designed and administered correctly there are advantages gained by having teachers and staff armed.
The school resource officer is yet another and common option. However, like it or not, regardless of the fact that the life of a single human being is priceless, South Carolina officials, following a cost analysis, discovered that it was expected to cost $80,000,000 to place school resource officers in each of their schools. A school can expect that it will cost $40,000 and up for each school resource officer hired. It is expenses such as these that has moved schools and school districts to consider arming teachers and staff, or not having an armed presence in their schools. The school resource officer is generally a sworn officer for a local police department, a retired police officer that holds his police certification, or an employee of the school board itself. These individuals are generally police officers and must meet the training standards of the state police training and standards board. Of course, there is nothing to stop the school board from requiring teachers and staff members to be certified and meet specific standards.
Private security firms can be hired to provide armed guards for schools. Again, this is expensive and the school has to ensure that they are properly trained and recertified to ensure that the school does not incur liability because of poorly trained contract security personnel.
How armed security for our schools is implemented is an important issue with a variety of options and associated costs. Each option can stand alone or be incorporated with other alternatives. For example, teachers and school resource officers working together, only resource officers, or private security and school resource officers working in tandem.
The option of allowing private citizens with a valid ccw (carrying a concealed weapon) permit to enter school property with their concealed weapons also provides additional security for the school. It is curious that school gun free zones disallow ccw permit holders from bringing their weapon onto school grounds, but they can carry their concealed weapon elsewhere in public. The logic escapes reason. It would be better if they just had a law disallowing criminals from bringing weapons into schools, but, then again, criminals would not obey the law, and that after all is the point. Why do politicians insist on restricting law abiding citizens? Law abiding citizens are not the threat. Those entering school property with ccw permits would largely be the parents of the students who would want to be able to defend the lives of those in the school. Another overall advantage would be that the school would no longer be a “criminal safe zone” haven for Violence, because the criminal would never know who among his potential victims would have a firearm. This alone is a serious deterrent. Many of the school massacres were planned long before the incident became a reality. In their planning those with murderous intent would now be forced to consider armed resistance, and from where they would know not.
Violence and Political Agendas
It is important to understand that aside from the political agenda that left wing legislatures impose on the gun debate, that many are often unfamiliar with the raw and brutal nature of violence. You cannot describe, read, or view true incidents of violence only and have a true appreciation for the barbarity of such acts. It is one thing to talk about violence, or watch violence in thirty second news clips from your livingroom arm chair and lament about how sad a situation for the victim. It is quite another thing to be the victim, or have a family member become a victim of violence. To fear for your life, or the life of a loved one murdered can be understood, but to experience such acts is to understand at another level. Legislatures on the left must put their political agenda and their party line to the side. It can no longer be an attitude of if your facts do not fit into our agenda we will ignore, marginalization, and berate you. They were elected by the people to ensure that we the people retain our Second Amendment rights and have the capability to protect ourselves and our children. To do otherwise perhaps, does not make legislators criminally liable, but it is at the very least morally reprehensible.
There is probably no better an example of legislator insensitivity, berating, total lack of understanding of violence, party politics, and proponents of violence against women than that displayed by Democratic Senator Evie Hudak, yes a female legislature, and her Democratic associates. Leslie Jorgensen, of The Colorado Observer, reported the situation and dialogue played out on March 4, 2013. The following is part of the testimony of Amanda Collins, before Colorado state legislators, opposing legislative efforts to increase gun control:
Amanda Collins vividly recalled a vicious sexual assault in a parking garage in 2007 when she was a college student at the University of Nevada at Reno– a “gun free zone” in accordance with a law passed by the state’s legislature.
Collins had a concealed carry permit, but had left her handgun at home to obey the “gun free zone” law the day that she was raped.
“If the purpose of declaring a gun free zone is to ensure the safety of those on university properties in Colorado, then it will not serve that objective,” declared Collins.
“The question in my life is, and will remain to be, what would have been different if I’d been able to carry my firearm,” Collins told the committee. “At some point, I would have been able to stop my attack.”
That, she said, would have prevented the perpetrator James Biella of later raping two other women, and killing the third victim, 19-year-old Brianna Dennison.
“How does rendering me defenseless protect you against violent crime?” asked Collins.
Her question was met with silence by Democrat committee members state Sens. Angela Giron of Pueblo, Matt Jones of Louisville and Hudak, and Sen Rollie Heath, who with state Rep. Claire Levy, both of Boulder, sponsored the bill.
“What we are trying to do is to protect students and teachers from feeling uncomfortable by you carrying a gun to protect yourself,” Harvey said of the Democrat-controlled committee’s intent…
“Thank you for sharing your story — very unsettling,” said Hudak, who then defended the bill.
“I just want to say that actually statistics are not on your side,” declared Hudak.
“For every one woman who used a handgun in self defense, 83 were murdered,” she said, [The Senator neglected to explain that the murders were not the result of a handgun being taken from the victim. The perpetrator had his own gun in which to kill.] citing Colorado Coalition Against Violence data.
“You said that you were a martial arts student,” said Hudak, “And yet because this individual was so large he was able to overcome you even with your skills.”
“And chances are that if you had had a gun then he would have been able to get that from you and possibly use it against you,” asserted Hudak.
“Respectfully Senator you were not there,” responded Collins. “I was there.”
“I know without a doubt in my mind that at some point I would have been able to stop my attack by using my firearm,” declared Collins. “He already had a weapon — he didn’t need mine…”
“That’s why we have call boxes, that’s why we have safe zones, that’s why we have whistles, because you just don’t know who you’re going to be shooting at,” said Salazar at the time. “And you don’t know if you feel like you’re going to be raped or if you feel like someone’s been following you around or if you feel like you’re in trouble,” asserted Salazar.
But Collins and other rape survivors debunked the idea that a safety zone, a call box, or whistle could protect them from a rapist.
“Anyone in danger would first have to locate a (call box) that works, push a button, wait for a response, explain what’s going on — all while fighting off her attacker — and then wait for help to arrive,” said Collins, who added that campus security and law enforcement can’t always protect a person.
“How safely could I have used a whistle with a pistol pointed at my temple?” asked Collins.
We in our society have so masked the true nature of violence in our movies, TV programs, and yes even in the violent video games that our children play, that many, including our children, do not understand what violence truly is, or the consequences of violent acts upon another human being. You hear only rhetoric from our legislative bodies, Governors, and President regarding what they and Hollywood should do to curb such visual violent and interactive games, movies, and TV programs. What impact do these games and violent programs and movies have on our young? How much does it desensitize them to true violence and encourage such behavior to solve problems, or to get even? Again, should they not focus attention here where there is a chance for change instead of focusing the debate on gun bans that take away our rights and make us less safe?
Finally, where is our government on the issue of the mentally ill? Certainly, those that shoot innocent children, teachers, and a school bus driver might well fit the definition of mentally ill. Again, the President, state governors, and legislatures loudly proclaim the need for study and change, so that we can reduce violence in our society. Yet, what has been done on this critical issue to date? Nothing has been done. Attention is focused on gun bans solely. Do not expect them to move in that direction either. Once they have fulfilled their gun ban agenda, gained the political advantage they seek, worked their smoke and mirrors, and improve their chances of reelection, the national agenda will magically change to their next political agenda. We, the people, will be no safer and when the next Sandy Hook occurs they will again go for more gun bans, make us less safe, and move on to their next agenda. Does this sound familiar?
The important point of this discussion is that security in toto must be reviewed and that various integrated security measures must be selected and implemented. Internal and external security should be as comprehensive as the school can produce; however, regardless of the security presented to the determined disturbed gunman he can and likely will defeat a schools external security and enter the school. At that point, how will the occupants be protected and protect themselves and the children? Without sufficient armed personnel in the building the attacker is free to kill.
It is important to note that many of the attacks on schools were premeditated and well planned out for weeks, or more in advance. They were not random attacks of violence. The deranged killer knew the schools and they knew they were gun free zones. They will also know if there is only one armed guard and that one armed guard will be their first target. If successful, in killing the single armed guard who is left to confront the killer with the only force, a firearm, that will stop his killing spree? On the other hand if teachers and staff, additional security, ccw permit holders, or some combination of armed resistance are in the building the threat can be met force against force and lives can be saved. In addition, the potential killer knowing that the school is well protected with armed personnel might well choose to avoid the encounter altogether because it is a hardened target and his efforts would be fruitless. School gun free zones are not protecting our children, teachers, or staff, on the contrary, they are putting them at great risk. The question is not whether guns in school are appropriate, but how best to integrate armed security into the school?