As working moms in Omaha, or any parent for that matter, to us is given not only the task of discussing issues such as safety with our children, but also of guarding the safety of our children. In the wake of the recent school shooting, many issues have been reframed. We conclude this series with a discussion on protecting our children; and lead into a series on various safety concerns.
Today, we look at perhaps the most important concern of all - how can our children be protected when we are not there? Since the tragedy at Sandy Hook, taking children to school has become a surreal activity. As our children skip happily into the building to spend a day of fun and learning with friends and teachers, we realize it is our own innocence that has been shattered. Still, we must pull it together and figure out how to maintain their innocence without locking them away from the world.
So, is there a lesson that can be learned from the tragedy at Sandy Hook elementary? The idea that perhaps there is something that could have been done differently is a difficult one to delve into. Certainly, the faculty and staff at Sandy Hook did the very best they could that day. The question is: can barriers and other measures be put in place to enable teachers and other staff to be more effective in similar situations?
Based on what is known of the situation, the first most obvious problem is that Adam Lanza was at the school the day before, and an altercation occurred. Should it be common practice that such individuals be detained, questioned, or monitored? Or perhaps that the building be patrolled following suspicious incidents?
The next issue results from Adam Lanza's ability to enter the building. Conflicting information has come through the media concerning this. Initial reports were that he was "buzzed in." Later, it was said he broke the glass and opened the door. Still later, it was reported that he fired repeatedly until he broke enough glass to actually walk through the door. In any case, there is the indication that it should be more difficult to enter a school. Through the use of bullet-proof glass, metal doors, and other security measures, random entry into a school should be minimized.
Thirdly, regardless of how Adam Lanza entered the building, it was reported that the first indication something was wrong came when staff heard shots. Thus, it would appear no security personnel were stationed near the entrance. Additionally, Adam Lanza entered the building armed. Again, we do not have all the details, but it appears there were no metal detectors at the entrance.
Another very glaring issue here arises from the statements that Adam Lanza was mentally ill. Further, he was described as a loner, which may indicate he was bullied. These two characteristics are seen time and again among mass shooters. Perhaps we as a nation could be doing more to address these issues.
Next, I could not help but notice that there was no set course of action taken. The indication is that no formal safety plan or training had been provided. In light of recent reports that floor plans of US schools have been found in terrorist training camps, and with the knowledge of the terrorist attack on the Beslan School in Russia, US schools should be fully prepared for possible attacks.
In speaking with my own children, I discussed with them three options. First, of course, was evacuation. Second was hiding. Third was playing dead. Oddly, as the details of this case have emerged, the media have reported that one child grabbed several of his friends and ran from the room as the gunman was shooting. These children evacuated and survived. In another report, we read of children who were hidden in cabinets and closets, and survived. Most recently, a report stated that the little girl who was the lone survivor in one classroom had indeed played dead.
When teachers are left scrambling for places to hide children, something obviously is amiss. Evacuation is the first and best course of action in such a case. Automatic lockdowns should be the first step, and each room should have a method of escape. All of this should be practiced as a standard drill in every school.
The statement to the media by Newtown officials that the "blanket of public safety will be strict," comes as too little, too late. The time to provide safety is not after a tragedy.
Currently under intense debate in government and across the nation is the issue of gun control. The premise is that guns are used to commit such shootings. Thus, many are stating that we should have no guns. Sounds logical. However, even the littlest of children is prone to misbehave at times. Adults are no different. Under gun bans, citizens who do not abide by the law will not abide by gun control laws either. Guns exist and are not going to suddenly disappear. That is the real logic. If Americans across the country are suddenly disarmed, criminals will have a field day. Terrorists will face little resistance. Guns are not simply a means for crime; they are a means of self-defense. Police have guns. Soldiers have guns. Guards have guns…because they are necessary to defend ourselves against others. The same president who is promoting gun control is surrounded by armed guards. The same president who says your children will be safer at school if we implement gun bans, reportedly has eight armed guards in his children's school.
So, how do we address the issue of guns in schools? The whole idea sounds scary. For years, we have framed the issue of guns in schools from the lens of older children bringing guns into high schools. Indeed, many schools have provisions to prevent and retaliate against wayward teenagers, yet I am not aware of any that are prepared to counter act against violent adults. Today, we must reframe the issue and consider younger children. The real problem is not if there will be guns in schools, but rather who in the school will have the guns.