Readers — I just got off the phone with a mom in Pennsylvania whose tiny school district has allotted $100,000 for new security measures without even knowing what it will spend the money on. This district dropped about 10% of its teachers last year for lack of funding, but it is so freaked out by Sandy Hook that it is happy to throw cash at security companies. Here we witness a classic case of fear freezing the brain. When we’re scared we demand a solution NOW! This MINUTE! Without thinking about which measures — if any — make the most sense.
Similarly, I heard Emily Bazelon giving a talk about her new book, Sticks and Stones, on Tuesday night at the New America Foundation, and she talked about what’s happening with anti-bullying programs. She’s visited some schools that had implemented eight different programs — eight! — to combat a bullying problem that might or might not exist there. Why this willy-nilly approach? Because the administrators felt they had to be doing SOMETHING and apparently they felt the MORE they did, the BETTER. It didn’t really seem to matter if the programs made sense, or dovetailed with each other, or were ever actually proven effective. All that mattered was that, in the face of fear, the school was being pro-active.
Which brings us to this note about school security that I just got from a high school student. – L.
dear free-range kids: i know at my school — and note this is in a town with about 500 people covering 0.2 of a square mile — before sandy hook it was great. you could go to your car almost any time when you weren’t in class. if you needed to use the restroom you just asked the teacher, left, and came back, no strings attached. before and after school you could just walk on and off campus as you pleased as the only thing in front of our school was an old rock wall, about 2 to 5 feet high, depending on where you were standing. parents could just come and pick you up when ever they needed. and everyone was happy, no shooters, no bullying, no violence of almost any kind.
but now we have a fence surrounding the school. we aren’t allowed to go to our cars anymore or park behind the school. bathroom breaks require hall passes and sign in sheets, and teachers and visitors both have to wear ID cards. it pretty much just sucks now, because me and my friends used to go sit and hang out on the rock wall
during breaks but now we can’t even go near it because of the mother-FRICKIN FENCE. i think this was a huge overreaction on my school’s part. — a student who felt safe before
Dear Student: I share your opinion. And I wish that other schools rushing headlong into new security measures would take a deep breath and consider: Are these necessary? Are they truly effective? Or are they just doing SOMETHING for something’s sake? – L