“No child, no teacher should ever be in danger in an American school,” President Donald Trump said Thursday. “No parent should ever have to fear for their sons and daughters when they kiss them goodbye in the morning.”
If those are the standards, America has failed.
Every parent in the nation worried Thursday when their children left for class. As the latest shooting in Florida proves, every child and teacher are still in danger inside their schools.
There are two ways to address this crisis: Americans could agree to restrict the sale and possession of assault weapons. To date, its elected leaders have shown no inclination to do so.
Those options are now on the table.
To their credit, school officials in Missouri and Kansas have made enormous progress in protecting students and staff. Local schools are safer now than they used to be.
The Blue Valley School District accelerated construction of so-called “pinch point entries” at all of its campuses. The construction makes it harder for unauthorized persons to enter a building.
Employees in the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District use photograph identification badges to enter buildings. Visitors must sign in with valid ID. Each middle and high school has a full-time resource officer from the Lee’s Summit Police Department.
Blue Springs in 2009 became the first public school district in the state to commission its own certified police officers and form its own police force. Officers from the Blue Springs Police Department also maintain a presence at five schools.
The district has more than 800 video surveillance cameras as well.
Secondary students in the Kansas City, Kan., district pass through metal detectors, and scanning machines are used on packages and backpacks. All school doors are locked.
Kansas City Public Schools use a private security department with commissioned security officers. They hold police powers while on school district property conducting school district business.
All of the district’s middle and high schools have metal detectors inside their entry points.
Shawnee Mission schools use a three-step process to enter a building. Every elementary school is fenced.
But school officials candidly admit there is more that could be done to protect kids.
Playgrounds and parking lots remain a concern. School districts and cities may need to consider expanding security perimeters around campuses, with guardhouses and gates.
Outdoor recess and exercise periods may need to be shortened or eliminated. Alternatively, fencing could be upgraded. Some campuses lack any fencing at all.
Classroom doors may need to be wired to lock automatically in a crisis, from the inside. Safe rooms that can hold children could be built for every class. Bullet-proof glass could become standard.
Armed guards may be needed in every school in America.
Hardening schools would be enormously expensive and disruptive. It would likely terrify younger kids. It might make schools resemble minimum-security prisons.
But every school district should review its physical security measures, training protocols and safety guides. After Sandy Hook, a commission suggested school districts should have permanent safety committees. It’s a good idea.
The nation could come to its senses on guns, of course. Not likely.
Further transforming our schools may be the only option. That is sad. But it is true.