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school safety

UPDATE! I love this comment so much, I have to highlight it here:

“When I was a little girl, an unarmed adult wandering the halls was likely to be questioned, not presumed to be a psychotic mass murderer.”

*

Readers — This  surprising story ran in yesterday’s New York Times about the news media’s new favorite story, finding “breeches” in school security. As reporter John Eligon begins:

The three news reports followed the same format: Television reporters walked into schools with hidden cameras, under the premise of testing the security measures. Each time, the anchors provided a sobering assessment of the findings.

“One of the more depressing reports I’ve seen in a long time,” said Matt Lauer, the “Today” show host, after a report showed unsettling lapses in security.

“What we uncovered may shock you,” Chuck Scarborough warned viewers of WNBC in New York.

Similarly, an anchor with the NBC affiliate in St. Louis prefaced a story by saying, “Some of it will disturb you.”

What disturbed ME — aside from the schools that went on lockdown, the kids made to cower in the classroom, and the not insignificant possibility of someone shooting the reporter — was summed up by Al Tomkins, senior faculty for broadcasting and online at the Poynter Institute, who told Eligon:

“What happens is you’re spending all this energy and time investigating school safety when that’s already the single safest place for your child anyway… [This] sort of reaffirms the false notion that my kids are really in danger at school when they’re not.”

Exactly. Like all the sweeps week stories where reporters go to playgrounds to film how easily kids can be lured away — as if to suggest strangers are doing this all the time — this new generation of reporters would make us believe our kids are in grave danger anytime any adult steps foot in a school.

That outlook reinforces the notion that all strangers are at least somewhat likely to be madmen, and that therefore all schools MUST be hermetically sealed. (See earlier post, “Strangers in the Schools”) The upshot is letters like the one I got a few weeks ago from a mom in an Iowa town of 1000, where students are no longer allowed to hold the door open for ANY adult, even one they know. (Which, in a town of 1000, is probably everyone.)

The media tells itself it does these reports as a public service. It does them for ratings, and the public be damned. – L

School or prison? Does it matter?

School or prison? Fearmongering reporters push to make them the same!

If this isn’t a 2014 Valentine, I don’t know what is. (See below.) This is a real email a reader got from her kid’s school and it hits every button, from lockdowns, to valentine-and-candy policy, to police involvement, to absolutely confounding instructions. (I have highlighted the sentence I don’t understand AT ALL in green). It’s also so heartwarming to know that if you, the parent, are a little slow to get to the classroom, you will NOT be recognized as Ava’s mom, but left to die. xxoo!  - L 

Happy Valentine 2014!

Love and Lockdowns.

Let’s be always be prepared.

Rally at 1:00

Parties at 2:00

Lockdowns

Parents:

Did you know that a practice lockdown could happen at any time even during a rally or party?

 You need to know what to do!

Go to the nearest open room to you when an announcement is made!

If a teacher has already locked her door, he/she will not let you in. They don’t know who it is and can’t take your verbal answer. They will try to clear halls and grab students and parents with tags.

Rooms should lock, lights go out, blinds close, and members of room hide in silence. There are green and blue cards that teachers put under doors. Green- we are good, blue- we need help. Your safety is more important than cards so if there is not a teacher in the room and you don’t see them, it is okay.

We will give an all call to resume activities when we get a go ahead from the McKinney Police.

Best to be proactive and once again, we appreciate you!

Love

Remember that valentines are for all members of the class. Candy that comes in valentines is to be taken home and not eaten at school. (Nut free items please! )Also- any deliveries for students are kept in office until end of day. Students will be notified they have a delivery. <3

 Thank you  See you as you sign in the office tomorrow.

 
Roses are red, blood is, too. Schools aren't safe and neither are you! (Photo:

Roses are red, blood is, too. Schools aren’t safe and neither are you! (Poem by Lenore. Photo by D Sharon Pruitt)

 

Readers — To keep children “safe” from all those strangers who slither in on Election Day, some schools no longer want to serve as polling places. This prompted me to write the song “Strangers in the Schools” to  Sinatra’s “Strangers in the Night.” I asked you to send in video versions for a contest. The winner is Deviant Ollam! He’ll get a signed copy of Free-Range Kids. (And, since he sometimes comes to NYC, he gets breakfast with me, too!) Spread this video, and thank you to all who submitted! – L.

STRANGERS IN THE SCHOOLS by Lenore Skenazy ( to the tune of “Strangers in the Night”)

Strangers in the schools, I look askance as

Strangers fill the schools, let’s take no chances

What if they have come with a grenade or two?

 

Something in their eyes, it’s so forboding

Look at how they smile, they say they’re “voting”

Something in my heart, tells me they’re perverts too!

 

Strangers in the schools!

Yes,  they’re my neighbors, but they’re strangers in the schools!

And at that moment when they walk into the gym, hope for life grows dim

Bludgeon all the kids they may, to celebrate Election Day.

 

So — If you want your kids avoiding dangers

Never let your kids encounter strangers

Strangers like the ghouls who go and vote in schools.

Readers — Show us your chops!

Here’s a song I wrote last night, inspired by this AP story by Nedra Pickler about some schools, including  those in Glen Ridge, NJ, that “want to end their traditional role as polling places because of security concerns since the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.” (As one commenter once wrote about this issue, “Guess all of those Election Day Massacres finally took a toll.” )

Your job? SING THE SONG AND SEND US A LINK in the comments below! Or just send me the video via email: heylenore3@gmail.com . Do it by Sunday, Jan. 12. I’ll post some of the versions on the blog and the winner chosen by a distinguished panel of one will get an autographed copy of Free-Range Kids! Here’s the karaoke version of Strangers in the Night to sing along to:

STRANGERS IN THE SCHOOLS by Lenore Skenazy ( to the tune of “Strangers in the Night”)

Strangers in the schools, I look askance as

Strangers fill the schools, let’s take no chances

What if they have come with a grenade or two?

 

Something in their eyes, it’s so forboding

Look at how they smile, they say they’re “voting”

Something in my heart, tells me they’re perverts too!

 

Strangers in the schools!

Yes,  they’re my neighbors, but they’re strangers in the schools!

And at that moment when they walk into the gym, hope for life grows dim

Bludgeon all the kids they may, to celebrate Election Day.

 

So — If you want your kids avoiding dangers

Never let your kids encounter strangers

Strangers like the ghouls who go and vote in schools.

 

Scooby Dooby BOO!

Scooby Dooby BOO!


Readers, this is just a fascinating Texas Monthly story about a lockdown drill that everyone but the principal and a few administrators thought was REAL. At the heart of it lies the question the reporter asks (see below). And also: How does a terrifying drill  make the staff better prepared than a calm one? And the uber question: What kind of administrators think a shooting is so likely, it is worth putting everyone in their school through a horrifying experience? That’s the kind of thinking that gets us all sorts of drastic laws: “I don’t care if the odds are TINY, I still demand we do something huge and inconvenient that could easily backfire!” 

Is It Possible to Prepare Teachers and Students For School Shooting Situations Without Traumatizing Them? by Don Solomon 

When Hans and Jessica Graffunder sent their kids to school at Small Middle School in Southwest Austin last Thursday morning, they didn’t expect that by mid-morning, their children would be in the middle of a lockdown situation. The Graffunder’s couldn’t have anticipated that their daughter, 11, would find herself in the school library with a librarian urging her to find a better place to hide so she wouldn’t get shot, or that their son, 13, would be locked in a room with a teacher who drew the curtains at the windows as unknown people rattled the door handles from the outside.

And when these terrifying scenarios happen, there is no anticipation, no warning. But what about when there is no actual shooter? When there is no emergency? What happens when it’s a lockdown drill simulating a gunman on campus planned by the Austin Independent School District and the middle school itself? Shouldn’t parents and teachers anticipate that because they’ve been given plenty of advanced notice?

On the morning of the December 12—after they’d sent their kids to school—the Graffunders and other parents at the school received an email from the school informing them that there would be an unannounced lockdown drill later that day. According to Hans Graffunder, the unannounced nature of the drill, which happened almost a year to the day after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, had both students and teachers in a panic.

“The only people at the school who knew it was going to happen, or knew it was a drill, were the principal and a few administrative staff,” Graffunder said in an email to Texas Monthly after the drill. “The teachers did not know it was a drill. The simulation took place in a passing period, so all the kids and teachers scrambled for a place to hide. My daughter ended up in the library. The emergency team went around to rooms where kids and teachers were hiding and proceeded to rattle door handles and beat on locked doors to simulate someone trying to break in. The librarian told my daughter that she better find a better pace to hide or she would get shot. She was told that a bullet could dome right through the library window and hit her. She was absolutely terrified. Kids and teachers were screaming and crying. One of her teachers had a complete meltdown, which made all of her kids break down, as well.”

Graffunder’s interpretation of the drill is pretty consistent with that offered by the school’s principal, Amy Taylor. (Taylor does say that door handles were checked to ensure that they were locked, not to simulate someonewas breaking in.) Both the school and the outraged parent agree on the basics of what happened: The school simulated a lockdown without warning teachers, and parents were informed the day of the drill with, at least in some cases, insufficient warning to give them the opportunity to pull their kids out of school for the day.

While no one would dispute the importance of emergency preparedness, the way the unannounced drill was carried out raises an important question: Is it possible to prepare schools for this sort of emergency without traumatizing the students and teachers involved?…

Read the rest here. And if you’ve ever been traumatized by a scary situation, I’d particularly like to hear your take! – L. 

UPDATE: In response to the commenter who plans to hold an unannounced drill at this school sometime soon to make everyone “better prepared” than an announced drill would: There’s just  zero reason to make people temporarily believe they are at the hands of a madman, considering this is still one of the very rarest of crimes (even though it gets a lot of attention). It’s like snatching kids off the street in a windowless van without first explaining this is not a real abduction.

Small Middle School, Austin, TX.
It began as an ordinary day….

Hi Readers! It’s that festive, super-suspicious time of the year, as evidenced by this invite, from the Riverside Intermediate School in Fishers, Indiana. You know — 2011′s Safest City in America. I guess it’s filled with the kind of upstanding citizens who need to be vetted by the state police before helping with kids’ class parties. – L

Hello Parents, I hope everyone is doing well.  You all signed up to help out in some way with our classroom at Meet the Teacher night.  I realize that everyone’s schedule is busy this time of year, but we will be having our Winter parties next Friday from 12:45-1:30 and I wanted to give you the opportunity to help plan the party.  I have found that 6th graders generally like 2-3 short activities, some food provided by the PTO, and time to talk with their friends.  Some ideas for the party include group relays (dressing students up as Snowmen), Minute to Win It games, or Bingo/Word search etc.  Don’t worry if this does not work with your schedule, but please know you are more than welcome to join the fun.  You must have a background check on file to participate at our school.  Mrs. Kiley has the list if you are not sure.

Hit reply all to let everyone know who is willing and able to run the party that day.  We have 36 in our class!

Thanks so much.

Mrs. X., Sixth Grade Language Arts and Social Studies

Note, I am not blaming the teacher, who has to abide by school regs. I’m blaming a school or district that thinks that without these background checks, the kids are in danger, even in their classroom, filled with other students and adults, at a party, for 45 minutes. It is simply not true. Not true? NOT TRUE.

When we keep acting like there is some real safety rationale for such absurdities, we go through the looking glass. Which, by the way, may have sharp edges. Beware of those, too. In fact,  beware of all non-existent dangers, if you want your kids to be safe. – L

Who would possibly allow their kid to spend 45 minutes at a school party with NON-VETTED adults in a town like this???

Who would possibly allow their kid to spend 45 minutes in a classroom party with NON-VETTED adults in a town like this???