I'm old enough to remember when $2.5 million was a lot of money. Our current reality of trillion dollar debt and deficit in this country makes $2.5 million seem kinda paltry in comparison. Perhaps that's why our superintendent and school board recently decided to put a $2.5 million capital-projects levy on the ballot by unanimous vote without bothering to consult with the taxpayers who will be on the hook for said monies.
Our schools have long had great support from the communities they serve. We have passed levy after levy in support of our children and our schools over the years and I like to think those were dollars well spent. I also like to think our elected/appointed officials would not take advantage of our generosity to pass a levy we don't really need so they can check a box, so they can cover their collective arses.
The current levy being requested is mostly for what they are calling school safety. In reality it is what the industry calls “target hardening," something prompted by the NRA and other gun lobbies.
This reactive response to recent school shootings is promoted by those who benefit from it but it is soundly rejected by those who are actually affected by such measures. I am greatly disappointed in Mr. Fenter and our school board for apparently allowing their emotions to interfere with the critical thinking that is needed at this time.
Both the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers along with experts and affiliated groups throughout our education system prefer a proactive response that actually addresses the common denominators of school violence. They see “target hardening” as a bad example for our students. They understand that implanting the fear and anxiety of being a target can and does have a negative impact on our children. They appreciate that parents and school boards need to pull their heads out of their hearts and give this matter the fact-based attention it deserves.
The chance of any one K-12 school in America experiencing a school shooting in any given year is about one in 59,925.
The chance of a school shooting taking place at an elementary or middle school in the U.S. in any given year is about one in 141,463.
The chance of a school shooting at a U.S. High school in any given year is about one in 21,000.
While these are estimated figures drawn from available data, they reinforce the fact that our schools are some of the safest places for our children. Schools are far safer than their students homes, far safer than the bus ride to school. Your child is more likely to be hit by lightening while riding a unicycle than they are to be killed in their school.
So, if schools are already the safest places by far, why are we being asked to fork over $2.5 million? Why do we need to turn our schools into fortifications complete with video surveillance and armed law enforcement? Why do we need to subject our children to over zealous, emotionally wrought policy that does nothing to enhance their education or advance their personal health and wellbeing?
I would love to have answers to these questions and more, like how is it you think hiring a SRO will “truly set a culture of safety” and result in “quite a climate change,” as Fenter has stated? I've seen reports that this SRO will be paid $33,000 a year. That seems like the bottom end of the pay scale for law enforcement. What kind of special training and experience is this SRO going to have for dealing with children? Will he have a degree in childhood psychology, or any other training that will enable him to make “quite a climate change” as claimed? My guess is you don't get all that for $33,000 a year. Instead you get an armed law enforcement officer who's only training is to enforce the law. Why do we need this in our schools? Are they really that unlawful now?
If you want to spend $2.5 million on a curriculum that teaches our children anger management and conflict resolution I'm all in. How about training for teachers on how to bolster self esteem and foster understanding and empathy for others. Or maybe school counselors to focus on the mental health and well being of our children? All of these things would be far more effective at keeping our children safe than the misguided levy that is before us.
The Observer recently ran a very good article about how many children are at risk in this area. It told of the issues local children face including poverty, unstable homes and lack of resources. These children go to our schools and it is there that we should be trying to connect with and offer help as needed so they have the best chance of growing up safe and happy. Happy children don't shoot up schools. Put $2.5 million into school programs that actually help children and I'd be all for it. Instead, they want locks and cameras and armed law enforcement officers implying our children are targets and/or potential law breakers.
I implore the taxpayers of this school district to do some research, employ some critical thinking and come to an informed decision about how best to assure the safety of our students. Do we want schools that teach our students what they need to be well rounded and successful or do we want schools that ignore obvious discrepancies in curriculum, staff training and mental health programs in favor of target hardening and law enforcement involvement?
Here are some links you may find useful in coming to an informed conclusion.
An informed electorate is the bedrock of a successful democracy. Don't let emotions and good intentions dictate the future of our schools. Instead, lets be proactive and fact based in our approach to solving gun violence in America.