With today’s school massacre in Russia (15 kids killed, 22 more wounded along with two more adults), it seems like a fine time to talk about how to ensure your kids are safe in school.

The school year is back in session for tens of millions of American children, including my twin boys. Keenly aware of security considerations, I like what I see at my kids’ school here in Central Illinois.  Do you know much about your kids’ school…or your grandkids’ school for you older folks?

As parents, we expect these schools to proactively mitigate risk and keep our kids safe while they’re there. When visiting the school, if you as a layperson see obvious security weak points like unlocked exterior doors during school hours, there may be other issues that you didn’t notice.   If school officials aren’t addressing these deficiencies, we as parents can help nudge them towards improving safety.

And if a nudge doesn’t do it, you can put your #12 shoe in their backsides as necessary to move them off the dime to implement today’s best practices for ensuring the safety of kids in your kids’ school.

Don’t wait for someone else to address security issues.  If your kids or grandkids are there, your family has a vested interest in addressing those concerns!  Your kids are priceless.

No one likes to deal with heightened security – until the wolf is at the door.  However, when it comes to saving lives, proactivity beats reactivity every day of the week and twice on Sundays.

Don’t assume. Be proactive as a parent. Assess your kids’ school security plans by opening a dialogue with your local school administrators.

How do you do that?  Email or call your school’s principal.  Identify yourself as a parent (or grandparent) of one of their students.  Ask to meet with them or to talk about safety and security.  Invite them to bring their school resource officer or other officials.

Yes, parents asking about safety and security is out of the norm.  But you can make it as non-threatening as possible.  In my email, I simply said I wanted to talk about their security protocols to ensure that school security was a little deeper than locked doors and a subscription to RAPTOR.

In my case, I was referred by the school principal to the district’s safety and security director.  Right away, I made contact.  Much to my delight, he’s a hard-charger like myself.  He lives and breathes school security against both the everyday issues in larger schools, but also the scenario we all fear:  mass casualty attacks.  He does this with a passion.

In talking with him, I learned that when he was a beat cop about ten years ago, he and another officer got a call for shots fired at the Normal, IL High School.  “Shots fired, unknown injuries.

His blood ran cold as his son was a student at that school.  I can only imagine.

Fortunately, the suspect was apprehended and nobody was physically injured or killed.  Nevertheless, it spurred him into a passion for school safety and security.  He later worked as a school resource officer and now, after retiring as a cop, he’s the director of safety and security for District 87 in Bloomington.

As a District 87 parent, I am thrilled.  We couldn’t have a better guy in that post.  

Yeah, I’m sure the Uvalde school resource cops talked a good game before that massacre, but this guy didn’t post up outside and “wait for resources” like the cowards at Uvalde.  Instead, he hauled ass to the scene, and once there grabbed his rifle and his ballistic helmet and ran into that school towards the sound of gunfire that day.   Along with another officer, the two of them stood ready to end the threat with whatever force was necessary.

Today, as a retired cop he brings those attitudes and experiences to keeping kids safe in our local schools.  And since school started, he and I have enjoyed a couple of nice conversations now and I’m looking forward to having him around in the years to come.

What’s more, he welcomes trained eyes and ears outside “his” schools.

There’s another resource for folks.  Frankly, it’s the one I used to put my foot in the door locally.

It’s called the NRA’s School Shield program and it provides a great apolitical springboard for those discussions. Not only that, but the School Shield program will not only send out experts to do a security evaluation — at no charge — but they can also provide grant money to make any recommended security improvements.

[UPDATE Caveat:  I’ve called them a couple of times in the past ten days.  The phone number goes directly to voicemail.  I asked if, in light of the budget cuts at NRA headquarters, if “School Shield” was still a viable program.  I still have not received a return phone call from either message.  Even if it’s been sidelined, the website has a wealth of security information.]

Because the harder the target, the less likely a bad guy will successfully recreate another Parkland in your hometown.

Here are some questions the School Shield program has put together for parents to ask teachers and administrators to make sure they don’t have their heads in the sand when it comes to security.

1. Has our school ever had a vulnerability assessment done?

2. Does our school work with local law enforcement and emergency responders in crisis planning and training?

3. When was our emergency operations/crisis management plan last reviewed?

4. What types of drills are conducted at our school and at what frequency?

5. Are all exterior doors of our school locked during instructional hours?

6. Are all visitors to our school required to check in with the main office?

7. Are students and staff trained on how to identify and report suspicious or concerning behaviors/comments?

8. Does our school have a behavioral threat assessment team?

9. If there is an emergency, how and when are parents/guardians notified?

10. Do we have designated security personnel assigned to our school? If so, are they armed/unarmed?

In fact, there’s a guide you can download and print out with all of these questions. Or you can email it to your school’s administrators.

The School Shield website also has a series of videos talking about the security analysis their experts provide from the perspective of teachers, parents, paramedics, etc., as well as ways to implement increased security without frightening parents.

Don’t assume your kid’s school is as safe as it could (or should) be. You can help them make sure they work to mitigate risks and maximize safety. The life you save might be your son or daughter’s.

One thought on “DON’T WAIT FOR SOMEONE ELSE TO DO IT: Talk with your kids’ school about safety and security”
  1. Kudos. I did the same long years ago when my kids were in school. It works, folks. Thanks in part to my lobbying the Superintendent and principal, they finally secured the damn building. It took (another) mass casualty event to move them to do it, but they did it. Finally. Better late than never.

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