Protecting the flock

Right after the school shooting in Parkland, Fla. I tweeted out in a few more words “that our sheep need to be protected by the sheep herders when the wolves come to the door.” Sadly, the next school shooter is out there, and the weapon is already purchased. Rehashing gun control and blaming the NRA is not going to change the Second Amendment.

We know after 9/11 we instituted stricter TSA standards to fly and that all our federal buildings and celebrities all have guns for protection.

So why have the schools not been taken to new heights of security since Columbine? Since that day there have been many more instances of active shooters at movie theaters, churches, work places, and schools all considered “soft targets.”

But let’s focus in our local schools, a very significant soft target.

Now don’t laugh but in the early days of trying not to “panic the students” from intruders or threats we thought of such benign things to say on the intercom like “its snowing in Seattle,” and the teachers could act to lock themselves down with their students. Almost as interesting as the old “duck and cover” times in the 50s when we worried about nuclear fallout and children hid under their desks. But here is the thought-provoking point of this. We were willing to tell our children that the Russians just might drop a nuclear bomb so we have to practice just in case. How did kids perceive that possibility? I don’t know, but at the very least shouldn’t the school be truthful with them?

So why aren’t we honest with them now? There is always the possibility that we could have a deadly intruder, that’s just the harsh facts. It may never happen or could happen tomorrow. So instead of being on defense, let’s go on the offense. Here are my thoughts to make this happen.

I was a school administrator, as you may know. I knew the flaws of our security and the flaws I knew of at my schools were heightened when I began substituting at Storm Lake.

I want to be clear I have the utmost respect for Chief Prosser and those who also must consider our school vulnerabilities so maybe what I am going to point out are ideas that have already been considered. I’m not implying anything as far as negligence, so here we go.

The perimeter or all accesses to the school should have at least one faculty member greeting the students when the day begins. They know the kids that should be coming through the doors. Teachers are perceptive on the way kids look when troubled or nervous. Keeping an eye open for a student who has been expelled or suspended are ones who have grievances against the system. I can’t stress enough that disenfranchised youth can be very irrational and emotional and setting the record straight can come with a gun as an equalizer. They need to be cut off instantly and always monitored by local authorities.  Once students are in, the doors are locked, which most all schools already do. You must gain access now to the school via the office interlock door access system triggered and monitored by cameras and school persons.

First, I believe all outside access doors and windows should have sensors that trigger an alarm system if broken or shattered if an intruder chooses that extreme route in. My thoughts on the type of alarm system we could use I’ll detail in a bit.

Second, the front interlock door system is just a good start. Most schools when the interlock opening is activated the person being let in is basically in the school. They then read a cute little sign that says, “All visitors must report to the office.” Yea, right, I’m in with no one to stop me. The fix you ask? I propose a two-door interlock. One door can unlock with direct access for persons the school persons know. The second is a “shunt access door,” when you are instructed to take that access it brings you right into the office in front of school persons. This is for non-students, parents and all other unknowns. Your first contact is now with adults.

Third, most schools when you come in the front doors you come directly into the commons area and in the high school case it is also serves as a study hall. I think the positioning of the monitor could be better. Maybe a three-sided turret style perch that is elevated two feet that can oversee the large area but also is directly in view of anyone coming through the front hall coming into the commons. It could be made of some attractive wood but also bullet proof with a one-foot or taller bullet proof glass rimming it at the top, so you still have a view. On the desk is a radio microphone that is push-to-talk directly connected to the office for instantaneous communication and a trip alarm like the fire alarm system that I’ll explain later. A concealed weapon strong box mounted under the desktop that needs a key/keypad to open.

Hang on, don’t go crazy on me, but yes, it may be time for the sheep to be protected with the possibility of like force. Signs that read Gun Free Zone always made me wonder if the evil guys could read. The new sign on the doors should read, “These Premises Protected by Concealed Carry Trained Persons.”  I know that’s deep but when will we concede that the duck and cover days are over. If persons are firearm-trained and monitoring the commons area they can have the key and the keypad code. It is issued by the designated office personnel. There would need to be more extensive policies and procedures developed by the schools and our public safety pfficers on how to handle access to this box.  If a monitor is not trained at least the radio and alarm are at their access. I think one of these monitoring turrets could be put down by the gymnasium/auditorium entrance as a place our resource office can position themselves for ballgames if they so choose or once again trained persons can man this station.

Fourth, did you ever think about what is supposed to be practiced four times a year in our schools? The answer is fire and tornado. The chances of these events occurring is miniscule by statistics, but we do them just in case, right? But where does the active shooter drills fit into the school or state mandate?

In my opinion by every active red fire alarm pull that is in the building three feet away should be a green emergency pull switch. And when pulled a very shrill alarm sounds. Think about it, if there is a fire we have all those nice signs that say EXIT to tell us where we can go to get out of the building. I believe there should be signs, hanging like exit signs, that flash strobe-like in large green letters that say “BREACH.” It then becomes the staff’s duty to check the halls, grab who they can from the halls or if not able get the doors shut and lock down.

No more code words over the intercom, just begin to teach kids the harsh reality of this day and age of the possibility of active shooters the first day of school in a student assembly.

If you bring up guns and gun control the debate goes back to political and we will go round and round. I’m not putting this out there for that debate about the Second Amendment. I just want the schools to have a fighting chance if a horrible event like an active shooter should occur. If there are things like this already being done I apologize for not being better informed. However, we must do better to protect the flock. We can just sit and wait for this possible horrific event, or is it time to go on the offensive?


Storm Lake