Old school school security irked me because it was so pointless: Write your name on a sheet, show ID, get a sticker. Plain busywork.
But school security has ballooned since Sandy Hook and now in addition to being pro-forma, it is also wildly expensive, diverting funds from anything remotely educational.
So kudos to Sasha Abramsky for this piece in The Nation, The School-Security Industry Is Cashing In Big on Public Fears of Mass Shootings, which begins:
“Security was the number-one factor for me in choosing a school,” explained one of the mothers I met late last winter at a Montessori preschool in an affluent suburb of Salt Lake City….So when the time came to send her child to preschool, she selected one that markets itself not only as creative, caring, and nurturing, but also as particularly security-conscious.
To get the front door of the school to open, visitors had to be positively ID’d by a fingerprint-recognition system. In the foyer, a bank of monitors showed a live feed of the activity in every classroom. After drop-off, many parents would spend 15 minutes to half an hour staring at the screens, making sure their children were being treated well by their teachers and classmates. Many of the moms and dads had requested Internet access to the images, but the school had balked, fearing that online sexual predators would be able to hack into the video stream. All of the classroom doors had state-of-the-art lockdown features, and all of the teachers had access to long-distance bee spray—which, in the case of an emergency, they were instructed to fire off at the eyes of intruders. The playground was surrounded by a high concrete wall, which crimped the kids’ views of the majestic Wasatch Mountains. The imposing front walls, facing out onto a busy road, were similarly designed to stop predators from peering into the classrooms.
Abramsky tries to fight the fear with the facts: That schools actually ARE safe — even before added layers of security:
National Center for Education Statistics,…the average annual figure [of kids murdered at school] was 19.Despite the excruciating angst suffered by this woman and so many other parents, school violence is a rarity in America…. According to the
…Even in the deadliest years, the chance of a student or adult being killed at school is roughly one in a million.
He goes on to describe what’s happening in Shelbyville, Indiana —
where school superintendent Paula Maurer recently became so worried about the possibility of a shooting that she installed a $400,000 security system in the town’s high school. The entire campus, located in open countryside just outside of town, is now saturated with cameras linked into the nearest police station. Every teacher wears a panic button around his or her neck, and pressing it sends the entire campus into instant lockdown. For good measure, police officers watching from miles away can set off blinding smoke cannons and ear-splitting sirens at a moment’s notice.
Much as anti-crime advocates convinced government agencies in the 1990s and 2000s to fund an increasing array of punitive programs, today school-security companies and trade associations are lobbying legislators in several states to change building codes so that schools will be mandated to spend more on their security systems.
It turns out that the money that Shelbyville paid for the security system could have paid for eight teachers — in a district that laid off five.
If your school system is considering expensive security measures, bring them Abramsky’s piece. You can save money, teachers and a sense of community. Of you go through the TSA at drop off. – L.