A call for action: school shootings

By Vivian Blevins

Contributing Columnist

Few probably realize that architects who design public libraries have known for decades that they must give due consideration to the location of the spaces for children in order to reduce the opportunity for pedophiles to prey on them. In other words, the design of facilities has a role in determining the safety of those who use them.

I will concede that we have a plethora of problems that need attention in the U.S. and abroad, and we need massive amounts of funds to address them. This requires us to establish priorities.

I also know that school shootings have resulted in blame games: mental illness of the shooters, failure of those responsible for safety of our children to acknowledge the signs when an individual is prone to devastating action, ages at which guns can be purchased, illegal purchase of guns, failure to store guns property, social media, violent video games, racism charges, the break-up of American families, the decline in adherents of the Christian religion, the need to outlaw the purchase of assault rifles, and funding for politicians from gun-rights groups. Some suggest that teachers should be armed. There also is disagreement as to the intention of the Second Amendment. And the list goes on and on.

We acknowledge that most Americans want revisions in gun laws; however, there seems to be no bipartisan support for what those revisions should be.

And there are the mass shootings in other places: houses of worship, concerts, night clubs, grocery stores, and virtually everywhere Americans gather.

I think we all agree, however, that our school facilities should be designed and/or retrofitted to reduce the opportunity for illegal entry. Additionally, I believe we can agree that Congress should act immediately to put funding for these initiatives at the top of the list of needs and use the summer and fall of 2022 to initiate these important changes.

I am a pragmatist and want to address what is possible and what can be done immediately. I have spent a lifetime working in schools and colleges from New York to California, so I’ll begin with a few suggestions and leave it up to architects and engineers to figure out the details and Federal budget officials to determine costs. To begin, we should confer with those designing and operating high-security military facilities throughout the country to determine if their approaches and technologies might be applicable to schools. I’d like to suggest the following be considered:

1. Build high, solid fences around school playgrounds ( I’ve taught in prisons so I understand the value of fences to keep intruders out). Such fences allow our children the ability to be outside, to run and play without fear of persons carrying firearms. This refers to play areas and not entire campuses.

2. Employ armed, well-trained, competent guards to be placed at strategic locations on school campuses.

3. Retrofit classroom doors and windows to make them bulletproof and able to be locked with a single switch.

4. Construct emergency-use bathrooms in each classroom. Why? Persons under duress at times experience vomiting and diarrhea.

5. Equip bulletproof entries to schools with detection systems similar to those in airports.

6. Equip bulletproof exits with lock-down systems.

7. Install public address systems that can be heard clearly throughout facilities and test them regularly.

Regular training of faculty, employees, and students on intruder danger is being done throughout the country in many places. Collaboration/dialogue, however, between school employees and law enforcement must be carefully defined with ongoing communication.

In conclusion, I endorse thoughts, prayers, grief counselors, and sympathetic listeners, but I want action that can be done immediately without debate about Second Amendment or states’ right. Maybe we should fly our flags at half-mast until we get action to reduce the potential for harm of our children.

As a postscript I must say that with a much smaller percentage of college/university student now preparing to become teachers, with the large numbers of current teachers either retiring early or considering moving to other professions, with our children behind academically because of COVID and its ongoing variants, and with the intrusion of legislators in matters of school curriculum, we can anticipate major problems as our children return to school this fall.

Vivian B. Blevins, past CEO of colleges in Kentucky, Texas, California, and Missouri, holds a Ph.D. from The Ohio State University. She currently writes a weekly column for Aim Media Midwest, teaches at Edison State Community College, and volunteers with veterans. Her email is [email protected] Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints nor the independent activities of the author.