I am very happy that legislators are ready to take up the issue of gun control. No one needs the massacre-in-seconds capability provided by assault weapons and large magazines. There is simply no other use for these devices than killing as many people as possible as fast as possible. Until the general proliferation of these things is reduced, however, our schools are sitting ducks for disturbed people who may have experienced things in schools for which they want culturally glorified violence-as-justice (a longer-term problem to be dealt with in our homes and communities). As someone with professional experience in risk analysis, I’m relieved that our state legislators and our local community leaders seem to understand that adding guns for defense to the school environment would add far more risk than it would mitigate, as well as threatening the safe and open environment in school that is necessary for nurturing growing creators and innovators. However, I’m also aware that we have a “Well, what else can we do?” problem. The truth is unsexy, and a lot of work, but thankfully not necessarily too costly; for each school community, leadership must sit down and imagine how their specific facility is currently open to attack and what simple measures could layer deterrence on vulnerabilities or help them to respond effectively in the unlikely event of an attack–looking for the layers of preparation and simple, small things that will add up to more effective overall security. Like, for instance, can we equip staff with walkie-talkies so that if they notice a threat they can quickly communicate the exact location of the attacker to other staff so each teacher can make better-informed decisions more quickly for the children in their care. If a teacher knows the attacker is on the other side of the building, they may realize that their class would be safer to run outside and get away down the street. If our plan is to hide in adjacent windowless rooms with the children in a particular zone, can we choose those places and make sure the doors and walls are reinforced? Can we build a high wall along the side of a playground adjacent to a wooded area where an attacker could hide? Can we put door codes that only parents and staff know on the outside doors during after-school, and change the code every year? Can we coordinate a faster connection with the local police for that emergency speed-dial call? Can we install a lock-down system on classroom doors, and make sure there are places for staff and children caught in the hallways to escape? Have we thought in depth about what would cause us to make the decision to lock down and call the police, and exactly what we would need to communicate so that each responsible adult has the best information possible as quickly as possible. These are all assessments that will yield answers unique to each school building and its accesses and surrounding grounds. But, please, please, don’t think that there isn’t room to improve school security without adding firearms and surrounding the children with an oppressive environment of fear. There are plenty of things we can do, and even inexpensively. It’s our job as their grownups to imagine the unimaginable, think through what we would need to do and be creative about what can help us get to a satisfactory level of deterrence and preparedness.
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