Following the recent Parkland verdict, I find myself reflecting on the time shortly after the tragedy itself. I was in DC the week after it happened for Advanced Threat Assessment training. Needless to say, Parkland, as well as all of the subsequent hoaxes that plagued schools around the country, was discussed.
What most Americans fail to realize is there is a system failure in our schools and our communities – and so many people on both sides are looking for a one-size fix. Banning guns, high capacity magazines or arming teachers is not going to fix the problem. Simply adding more mental health professions is not going to fix the problem. Adding threat assessment teams is not going to fix the problem. In this country, the one-size fixes have never solved any problem.
We need to fix the system. Yes, we need solutions for helping those with mental health issues. We need to look at gun laws that make good sense (NOT common sense – because, as most of us know, ‘common sense’ isn’t common) and will be effective without trampling the Second Amendment.
We must train our teachers to quickly identify children who are at-risk. We must work to improve school climate and culture. We must work to make our schools more like castles than prisons. Both are fortified, but everyone wants to go to a castle, while very few want to go to a prison. Our schools must work with First Responders so that Emergency Operation Plans (EOP) are up-to-date and meet best practices. Staff must be trained with their EOP and conduct exercises with First Responders to test their plans and training.
Schools must be adequately funded!
We need to work with our at-risk communities so they feel safe and children can come to school without suffering from PTSD because of the violence in their own neighborhoods.
And now that we have fixed the system, here is the bad news: This will only be about 80% effective in keeping our children safe. Will this stop the lone wolf who has no connection with the school from trying to kill our students and staff? Will this stop the non-custodial parent who is determined to kill his child and then himself at school? Will this stop the drive-by shooting from the neighborhood that spills over to the school property? WIll this stop the suicide bomber at a football game?
I think about systems when I fly. Is the TSA 100% effective? NO! But are we safer because of TSA and the process/procedures after 9/11? Yes.
When you are thinking about what we really need to do to keep our students and staff safe, please do not push the ‘one’ thing – like gun control or arming teachers, metal detectors, or armed guards in the name of school safety. School safety is a multi-layered approach and schools cannot do it on their own. In this case, it truly does take not just a village, but a nation.