In the United States, as in all of western civilization, children of certain ages are required by law to attend public schools. Because of this coercive factor, public school systems have the highest possible duty to actually educate children. To educate children, school systems must first make the children in their care safe. No meaningful education occurs where children feel unsafe or where they are in fact unsafe.
Since the Columbine massacre in 1999 and later the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012, we have held a national debate about school safety. Because of this debate our schools in a very unsystematic way have become safer both inside and outside of schools, and active shooter drills happen with more regularity. We are seeing doors locked and armed guards appear with some degree of regularity.
What we have not seen is a reduction in school shootings. It is reported that 21 or more school shootings have occurred in just this year alone. Two of these shootings occurred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida and Santa Fe High School in Texas. These two tragedies happened even while armed guards were at the schools.
The individuals who attack our schools are most commonly students or former students of the schools attacked. A notable exception is the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooter, who was in his mid-20s when the shooting occurred and had no known relationship with the school prior to the shooting.
In every instance, however, all school shooters are successful in carrying guns into the schools. If you keep the guns outside the schools, there will be no more “in school” shootings and our children will be much safer.
If you are still with me you can see a standard of measurement for school safety emerging. It seems to me that the question to ask is this:
“Can a local school district keep from entering a school everyone armed with a gun who wants to kill those inside the school?”
With the exception of some very safe school districts in Utah, my guess is that not one school district can answer the question “yes” without qualification.
If school districts’ expenditures for “school safety” cannot keep students safe from determined, armed mass murderers, what are the safety features for? It the house roof is leaking, you do not repair the barn roof. If your brakes are failing, you do not repair the transmission and if you cannot keep angry, crazed young men and boys from killing our children, you do not create a system capable only of repelling an assault by a toddler armed with his favorite binky.
We must engage our school district trustees on this urgent matter. We must ask clear questions and demand clear answers. In an uncertain world, we have this one certainty; the mass murderers of our children will not stop until we have the will to stop them.
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Attorney Norman Gissel is a Coeur d’Alene resident.