Reports are coming in that schools around the country are beefing up security in the wake of Friday’s tragic mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. It’s a natural response to a horrible situation. We’re trying to protect our children from killers like Adam Lanza. Unfortunately, I don’t think that armed officers in schools do much more than assuage parents’ fears and turn our classrooms into military compounds.
My daughter’s school has always had a security guard at all times. Either a police officer or a firefighter is at the early childhood center everyday. We’re not talking about a high school where police officers are around to keep students in line. This school only has pre-k and kindergarten. The officers are there, most often armed, to keep students and staff safe because the school is located in a dangerous part of our city.
On Friday, when I heard about the horror of Sandy Hook, I didn’t feel like my daughter was any more safe because there was a police officer patrolling the school grounds. Over the weekend, as I cried for the families in Connecticut, I was not comforted by the fact that there’s an armed officer in my daughter’s school. And I don’t believe that increased security is really the way to protect students and children around the country.
Adam Lanza shot his way into a kindergarten classroom. He shot children multiple times. He was determined to take lives, and he would’ve succeeded in that quest whether a police officer worked at that elementary school or not. The problem here was not school security.
We have much bigger problems to deal with in our country. We have military-grade weapons available to anyone at a gun show without so much as a backround check. It’s harder to get prescription medication than it is to get a gun in some states. These weapons, specifically designed to kill large amounts of humans or animals in a short period of time, have no place in the hands of civilians.
We have a culture that sees violence as an acceptable form of entertainment, as a sport, as an everyday occurrence. We teach kids that weapons are toys and aggression is completely appropriate way to deal with your emotions. We’re a country that has children’s birthday parties at gun ranges, showing them that shooting a weapon is a game.
There are large cultural and political issues to tackle if we’re really concerned with making the world more safe for our children. Throwing a security guard at the door of every school in the country is not a solution. At best, it’s a temporary balm for our collective fear.
My daughter has an armed officer at her school today. I am thankful for the service he provides. I respect him as an officer of the law. But I think he’ll understand when I say that protecting that school and the children in it takes a lot more than one man and his gun.