I believe in numbers. And the bottom line for me with respect to Sandy Hook is that there are over 100,000 public elementary schools in the country, and at almost none of them have children been murdered. It’s an impressive track record for schools – and one they had little to do with. After all, my own elementary school had no locks on doors, multiple entry points away from offices and classrooms, and the only safety drills we had were weather-related. I was in Kansas, after all, and they don’t test those tornado sirens for no reason.
Since returning from the year-end break, my son’s elementary school has seemed to be on high alert. I suspect that’s pretty common right now. The school policy was to not discuss the school shooting that took place in Newtown, and any questions that did come up were deferred to the two on-site counselors, Principal, and Vice Principal of the school. I appreciated this policy, given that my own second grader has no idea what happened. And as far as I’m concerned, a big part of my job is making that last statement be true for a while. But I don’t appreciate the new feel that must permeate the school, with things not exactly as they used to be.
For starters, classroom doors now remain locked, under the theory that if a “lockdown” happens (and it already has!) the teacher will look out in the hall, gather any child she sees, and then close her door. No fumbling with locks could save some time.
The front door of the school also remains locked at all times (which was true much of the time anyway) and a staff member in the office opens the automatic door after he or she sees who the visitor is. Small changes, for sure.
But do I think either of these actions make children safer? No more than I think snagging my kid’s play-doh at the airport makes the airplane safer. You see, the problem we face is that we simply cannot control everything. In fact, most things are probably out of our control. This can be extremely frightening, disconcerting, and sad. We live in a fragile world.
This afternoon, parents at the school received an email indicating the school was in “lockdown”. This is the second such email we’ve received since the beginning of the year. The first time, an unannounced FBI training drill was taking place in the neighborhood, and County police were notified by a witness that a man with a gun was spotted in the neighborhood. The second time, there was an armed robbery on a bike trail a half mile from the school. In the former case, once County police figured out what was going on, the day proceeded as normal. In the latter, suspects were apprehended and the day proceeded. We were told that our students performed well and knew just what to do.
And while other parents might have been comforted by that message, and more than one adult at the school probably patted themselves on the back for a job well done, it made me pretty sad. Because I want the day to just proceed as if nothing strange is going on, with students chattering with friends and going about their business – not huddled for some period of time wondering what the heck is going on.
When she’s not in despair over security measures, Elaine blogs about her children at Connor and Helen Grow Up!