Sunday, June 12, 2016

Orlando and School Safety

50 dead; 53 wounded. Over 320 people out for an evening of socializing with friends and meeting new friends: 1 in 3 casualties (not counting the remainder who will develop PTSD); 1 in 6 dead.

Shocking statistics; horrifying news.

We extend our condolences to the victims’ families and friends. We weep. We gnash our teeth as to why and how we could stop this kind of violence.

We mourn.

I’m about to riff about school safety but I need to stop in respect of all the innocent lives that were cut short in Orlando this weekend.

Why do we have a casual attitude toward the security of our school campuses?

Every month we practice a fire evacuation drill until we reach testing season. Then no drills are permitted because we cannot interrupt the tests. (As if fires would put themselves out because the test is too important.) Maybe once a year we hold a lockdown drill to practice what to do if an active threat is on the campus. And yet, how many fires in the last 50 years have resulted in student injuries and deaths? Zero? How many have died because of killers and senseless violence?

After the mass killing at the elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, schools across the nation instituted new procedures, trained personnel, and put plans into place. Then a few years go by and the procedures are forgotten. School personnel are told at the beginning of the year that there is a plan in place and they should go read it. No practice, no drill.

Schools develop a plan and writes names into responsibilities. It looks good on paper. I’ll never forget when I found out a school had put me in charge of evacuating 800 students off-campus to a remote site, if needed, and I only found out months after the fact when they made the plan available for reading. When were they going to tell me? And when would they explain what they wanted me to do? I was told the plan was only a draft and not to sweat it.

Why do we have a casual attitude toward the security of our school campuses?

Capital orders are issued and fencing is put into place. But that proves inconvenient. At one school, people wanted to park on one side of the campus and not have to walk all the way around the front to come in the entrance on the other side of campus. Therefore, a friendly someone unlocks a gate every day to spare them the inconvenience. And a shooter? That person could slip in the unlocked gate and be in classrooms before anyone would know.

Why do we have a casual attitude toward the security of our school campuses?

In my end-of-year surveys, the students were generally appreciative of my teaching and help. (Not all, no one ever hits 100% popularity.) One thing they thought was stupid was my rule that only I answer the door. Only I am allowed to open the door to admit people into the room.

They scoff at my explanation that as unlikely as it may be, if a shooter is in the hallway, I am the one in the doorway to deal with it. (That’s being a teenager—it won’t happen to me.) But I am serious and committed to their safety. If someone goes down, it will be me. While it is unlikely to happen, somehow every year it happens somewhere. Black Swan Theory: merely because no one has ever seen a black swan doesn’t prove that one does not exist. However low the odds of an event occurring, given enough time, it is going to happen.

And then there are the number of rooms where the doors are unlocked. All I can say is that I’m glad at my current post that there are no connecting doors with other classrooms.

Why do we have a casual attitude toward the security of our school campuses?