Friday, January 7, 2011

"shots fired on campus": are we too safe?

I'm not entirely certain how I feel about this yet, but at the least I'm concerned about the unspoken assumptions of it. for the 1st time since I've taught, we faculty were trained for 45 minutes on what we should do in the event of a shooter on campus.
that there've been too many incidents to remain complacent, I agree. I show this timeline to my student each semester when talking about current school shootings (and there have rarely failed to be at least 1 shooting happening each semester). (note too that the timeline stops in early 2009; I don't know why infoplease hasn't thought to update it.) there was a school shooting only 2 days ago which left 3 people dead, including the 17 year old assailant. that students or others come to school with weapons to put us and the students we're responsible for at risk is true and I don't want to diminish that.

at the same time, what does it say of us that schools, when I was a kid thought one of the safest and dullest places in a community, are now targets?

the analogy I draw is this: what does it say of the trust we put in students, the youngest of which are in their late teens and the oldest sometimes in their 90s, that we lock them out of classrooms between classes? during the 1st weeks of class I approach this, asking them as I walk up to the door with my key out, "why are you treated like kids we can't trust?" sure, there are computers and other equipment in those rooms which would cost thousands of dollars to replace, and sure I'd be pretty pissed if I walked into a classroom where I'd intended to show a dvd only to find the equipment had been stolen. but so what? it's money and it's inconvenience, but the alternative is to treat adults as if they can't keep their hands off the candy.

as I've pointed out to students, so far as I know none of them has a history of theft. but I do. and they give me a key.

and while I don't have a history of violent behavior in school, I think we ought to err on the side of assuming that neither do our students. I'm not advocating that the training be discontinued--far from it, I think it was well done and to the point and campus security was at pains not to sensationalize the issue. unfortunately, I fear we are at a point at which teachers need to consider the possibility of student assault on them and on other students, and to that end it's good to be aware of what our options are and how we ought to deal with it. the video we watched (not available, as near as I can tell, on the internet but its title was "shots fired on campus": if you google that for videos, you'll come up with dozens of hits, most of them the titles of local stories) and the security officer presenting made mention several times that campuses are designed to be welcoming, open spaces where people feel free to enter the buildings or the property any time campus is open. such places are not intended to provide escape routes or cover against getting shot.

and there is where my concern lies. education, to be a social good, has to be available to everyone and a part of that availability is presenting itself that way. we may be on the way to locked buildings we need to enter using a swipecard and fenced grounds we need to show ID to enter, and while that may be safer, I don't think it would be right. school shooting training is not going to get us there. it makes sense to be prepared. but I still wonder what the need for it says about us and what it could say to people who'd like to join us.

1 comment:

  1. I think that many people are ignoring the root of the problem to begin with. Many of these kids that are doing this are living through some sort of trauma and abuse either at home or at school itself and they are severly angry and disturbed children. Many parents are not paying attention to what their kids are doing for whatever reason and some of the parents of the bullies that these disturbed kids may be dealing with are bullies themselves or in denial that their kids may be a bully. I think we should focus on those issues.