Keeping Students Safe in the Wake of a Tragedy

Sandy Hook students recently returned to school at a new location, with therapy dogs waiting and positive messages displayed on large posters throughout the building. The New York Times reported that parents were understandably nervous and teachers were eager to return to their jobs, while simultaneously mourning the loss of their colleagues and students. One parent, Mr. Murray, said, “I was kind of happy, but I sort of felt like I was going to throw up,” in response to his son’s return to school. Through it all, staff, students and community members have shown incredible resilience. John Woodall , a Newtown-based psychiatrist, said, “You might think the words ‘Newtown student,’ like ‘Columbine student,’ would bring to mind kids who are traumatized, psychological casualties. But we’re determined to have ‘Newtown student’ mean something different — to become a role model for the best of humanity — for showing that light can come out of darkness.” As the entire world mourns Newtown’s losses, many schools have scrambled to increase their security systems and train staff to handle emergency situations. There has been a great deal of controversy on whether teachers should be armed or schools should be equipped with guards. The following are some of the proposed ideas and response strategies.


Armed Guards

Education News reports that groups of parents throughout the country are requesting that schools employ armed guards to patrol hallways and school grounds, including a parent-teacher organization (PTO) in South Carolina. Holly Carithers, an Anderson County parent and PTO president, said, “I do feel like there would have been a greater chance if somebody would have been there armed to help and protect those children.” While Anderson County does have school resource officers, their budget affords them only 22 officers to cover 52 schools. Unless other funding streams appear, many schools simply cannot afford to incorporate resource officers and armed guards in their already tight budgets.

Emergency Response Trainings

According to the Huffington Post, Jefferson County schools in Alabama took a different approach by having their teachers attend active school shooting trainings, a collaborative effort with the local sheriff’s department. Simulations occurred in which paint guns and protective gear were employed, having teachers play both the roles of staff and law enforcement. This is similar to trainings that were conducted in many schools following the Columbine tragedy.

Armed Teachers

Utah teachers were recently offered opportunities for concealed weapons trainings where, like in Texas, teachers and citizens with permits can carry concealed weapons in public places. In fact, a number of Republicans are planning to introduce legislation that would allow, or possibly require, some school staff to keep loaded weapons in their possession. These proposals are drawing a great deal of ire from all political parties.

Providing Support

While it can be difficult to find the positives in a situation like Sandy Hook, Education Week reports that the outpouring of condolences and charitable acts has been tremendous. Teachers and students have had productive discussions, and there has been a lot of virtual collaboration for people to discuss how to keep children safe and how to provide support for the victims of the tragedy. Most importantly, we are reminded of how much teachers care about their students in a profession that is truly a calling. Anthony Mullen, a teacher at the ARCH School in Connecticut, eloquently stated, “I don't know a teacher that wouldn’t give up their lives to save their kids. It says something to the core and character of who a teacher is."

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