This article should help make a separation on the two issues because school safety should not be put together in the same argument along with gun control policy and gun violence and must be addressed separately.
While gun legislation will help reduce guns on the street and restrict gun sales to legitimate buyers and sellers, let’s also not forget that criminals have an underground market place where guns are bought and sold daily. In that underground market, background checks are NOT required and it is unlikely that legislation will stop the illegal gun trade.
Now that the issues are separated in this article, arguments and debates on school safety include arming teachers, having a police officer in every school, as suggested by the National Riffle Association (NRA), to even having armed volunteers and many other ideas. While there are a few things that can be effective in school safety, arming the teachers may NOT be the best idea, and I say this as a parent of two children in public schools.
With the recent massacre at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, gun violence, gun control ignited debates and attacks. Some people want strict gun control and other people want things as they are and use the Second Amendment as a constitutional argument. While the debate is ongoing, Obama signed 23 executive actions asking congress to pass gun control legislation.
In a more local perspective, during a morning lockdown drill in the Chicago land area on Monday, January 28, 2012, I was allowed to observe (the school requested to be anonymous). While the officers were getting prepared along with the principal of the school and the vice-principal, I posed one question to the principal:
Is anyone in your staff armed?
When I asked the question, there was a total silence. In the realm of security, it is possible to ask and understand the risks of having an armed teacher in a classroom legally or illegally and the ramification that this may present when performing a lockdown drill. It is fair to assume that someone may be armed and at least consider new safety procedures in the name of “officer’s safety,” when performing a lockdown drill.
There is no mystery that schools all over the United States are busy entertaining their security options, while politicians have hijacked school safety for the purpose introducing gun control policy. Along with these decisions and planning, we really need to start thinking on the risks and changes that would need to be taking place “now” in terms of school safety OUTSIDE and SEPARATE from the gun control debate.
"The security of our children in the schools is of the highest priority. We need to stay focused and understand that our schools have different levels of security needs and these needs can not be attached to gun control policy or the gun violence debate," according to William Black, Part Time Assistant Superintendent, DuPage County Regional Office of Education.
In many ways, the NRA is right to focus on separating the issues, as they have tried unsuccessfully, a number of times. It appears that a lot of planning on paper is taking place and the children at the schools are still left unprotected.
If some teachers are allowed carry a gun, as one possibility for school safety, let’s consider some of the questions that may come up, but that may need to be answered before policy is implemented:
1) How will lockdown drills be handled?
2) Will there be a policy change (NOW) from the schools standpoint that restricts the possibility of a teacher bringing a gun inside the classroom?
3) Will these teachers receive the right psychological and professional training to handle a weapon and deal with a life or death situation (just like a police officer or a well-trained armed security guard)?
4) Will the teacher or staff take a protective position in the classroom with the weapon drawn ready to take someone’s life?
5) Should something change on the practice drills or run the risk of having an unintended shooting?
6) Should police perform a security sweep to ensure there are no weapons inside the schools? Just like police officers do when they are performing a practice drill with EMPTY weapons.
On the drill I attended everyone was fine. The administrators, teachers, staff and the students performed according to the policy and all the doors were closed and locked as their procedures call.
While things get worked out on debate floors, why not bring some professional armed security to the schools NOW?
David Ratkovich, LPD, Executive Director with ETS Intelligence, LLC., offers the following on private security “It is our professional opinion that the best solution for the immediate safety of our students in schools is to embed well-trained and prepared armed agents on a daily basis. When used in conjunction with training and technology, it is possible to create a very secure environment without the students being distracted by its presence. ETS Intelligence, LLC., has teamed up with a company that provides an intelligent software system able to identify people with their face, the way they walk, and even their voice… this is yet, another layer that can be added.”
Something else to consider is that school’s policy may also force them to hire the “cheapest” security force and end up with mediocre security guards.
Armed security guards, police officers, arming the teachers are all possible considerations. However, even the lockdown drills procedures must be changed now. In the security field, if you expect to encounter a risk, you hire the right security. VIP’s hire the best money can buy. Going to a dangerous place requires security to offset any risks or threats.
Perhaps the real solution at this very moment is in hiring the right security force to secure the schools, while the planning and debates continue about school safety, gun control and gun violence, as separate issues.