December 17, 2012

Sending my First Grader Back to School

I had a difficult time wrapping my head around sending my girls to school today. In fact, because I wanted just a couple more minutes with her, I actually drove Sassy, my 1st grader, to school today. When I arrived at the school, there were lots of other parents dropping their children off. There was also a Police SUV parked close to the entrance of the school. I felt a little bit of relief, but I’d feel even more if I knew that was a permanent fixture at my girls’ schools.

People are discussing gun control and mental illness, and of course, they are all valid things to be discussing. But personally, I’d like to see an armed police officer in every school in the country. When I taught in a Delaware public school many years ago, we had a school resource officer. He was a constant presence in the school. If there was a fight, he was immediately there and involved. If there were issues with drugs in the bathroom, he knew about it, and took care of it. He got to know the kids and the teachers and having him there was a great comfort, especially considering that I started teaching not long after the Columbine tragedy occurred.

I remember sitting on my living room floor, putting together a project for one of my last Master’s classes, and watching the news of that shooting. Those images were forever burned into my brain. They were there when I started preparing my classroom. I decorated the inside of my classroom door to cover all the glass. I made a conscious effort to always have my classroom door set to lock as soon as it closed. I had an action plan ready in my head at all times so that I could keep my students safe. Thankfully, besides a couple random bomb threats at the school, we never had to go on lock down. But if we had, I was ready; and our school resource officer would have been on the scene from the start. Our school wouldn’t have had to wait those precious 5-10 minutes for 1st responders to arrive. One was already there.

I don’t think there’s a parent out there who would mind their school taxes being increased enough to fund a full-time police resource officer at their child’s school.  School budgets are tight, but funding school resource officers should be made a priority. The fact of the matter is that just knowing that there’s an armed and trained person at a school would be a huge deterrent to someone seeking a soft target to do their evil. Imagine for one second, that an armed officer had been inside Sandy Hook Elementary School last week. As soon as the glass was broken, he would have been there to meet the shooter.

And think about this. . . it’s unfathomable for some to imagine arming our school principals. But what if we armed each principal with a stun gun? Could that have saved those 20 first graders? A principal attempted to subdue an armed attacker with nothing more than her person. What if she had some resources available to her? The story may have been a lot different.

It’s easy to look back on horrible events and say things we should have or could have done. But what we should do now is push for an armed police officer in every school. School shootings are very rare and the likelihood of one happening in my neighborhood or your neighborhood is slim; however, there are many advantages of having a police officer in schools. On the news the other night, someone suggested employing armed military veterans at our schools. So many of them are looking for work. Perhaps this is the perfect opportunity to put them to work and keep our schools and children safe at the same time.

Will you join me in contacting your local schools to push for more protection for our children while at school? It’s important that we are not lulled into complacency after this tragedy. As time passes, we should not forget. We should move forward and find ways to protect our children at school.

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