I’m sure many of you have seen the email/FB message making the rounds that compares our care of prisoners to our care of the elderly. Most prisoners are entitled to a warm bed, three meals a day, healthcare, exercise, and even entertainment. They are also protected, although we see the fences and bars of prisons as our protection from them.
Yesterday’s shooting at an elementary school has revitalized the issue of school safety and security and I’m sure it will be the “hot topic” for a few weeks or months. The topic of gun control will also be on everyone’s lips for a while. But the real issue, the real problem will largely be ignored.
If we carry the issue of school safety to extremes we will have campuses with all the amenities of a federal prison. They will have high fences with razor wire at the top. They will have solid stone walls with few if any windows. Metal detectors. Guard towers and armed security officers. All personnel, students, parents, and visitors will be required to carry identification. And you can bet that someone will see all of that as a challenge and find a way to get into a school. After all, our local prison recently had two escapees!
And what if we actually fence IN a killer? I worked for nearly a year with a teacher who seemed to be a shining example of professionalism and turned out to be a dangerous pedophile. Then there was the parent of a kindergarten student in my class, who on the last day of school killed his wife. Given a different frame of mind he could have easily killed his child instead. I have also had students whose parents were pimps, drug dealers, and thieves… even one who was a self-proclaimed witch. Will we need to do background checks on parents and prevent some from entering school? Being the parent of a young child does not make one a saint!
And how much shall we fence in? Perhaps the entire block surrounding school? When my daughter attended high school a young man had an ongoing disagreement with another student about his sister. So he walked up to the fence one day, saw the student walking across campus, and shot him…without ever opening a gate or going through the metal detectors at the front door.
And for schools to become totally safe and secure we will of course have to do away with all sports and extra-curricular activities. We couldn’t possibly deal with having a crowd of strangers in a gymnasium or letting our children travel to another campus where security might not be as good as our own. I worked at a campus where two parents got into an argument at a track meet and one shot the other. Can’t risk that!
And that brings us to the gun. Such a great debate topic. So many issues to examine and argue about. So many rules and regulations that can be written. So many laws that can easily be broken. I hate guns. I’ve been around them all of my life and even fired off a few shots at a target. I see no need to be armed and I don’t hunt and I fear for the safety of all children who live in households with guns. But guns are NEVER the cause of these tragedies that take the lives of others. Guns rarely go off without a finger in the trigger.
Which brings me to the real issue, the real problem that we need to address in this country: mental illness. Some of it is caused by genetic factors. Some of it is brought about by drugs and alcohol. Some of it is due to years of abuse and neglect. Some of it is even cultural. I know students as young as four who are watching horror movies, playing violent video games, and witnessing violence in their homes each and every day. Many of them grow up believing that hitting, shooting, and even killing others is a “normal” part of life and an acceptable way of dealing with problems. Whatever the cause, we need to start identifying people who are disturbed BEFORE they get to the point of despair and destruction. We have to stop being fearful of “labeling” children or depriving young adults of their rights or locking up mental patients who are a danger to themselves and others. We have to find a way to start helping and healing those among us who suffering from hopelessness and dejection. These people cannot think clearly! They are not capable of helping themselves. They are not able to make rational decisions. So we must find a way to do that for them until they are well.
We can talk all day about security and safety, but how high does the fence have to be to protect our children from a deranged mind?