Safety is the best policy

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Are you ready for your school to feel like prison?

Abigail Martinez ‘22

“There were 34 school shootings in 2021, 24 of which occurred after August 1. As of the end of 2021, there were 92 school shootings since 2018.” School safety has always been something people have discussed, but since the increase of school violence— especially the most recent school shooting in Michigan— this discussion has been talked about more heavily. Some people have made many different arguments and come up with different possible solutions, some of which might work, most don’t.

One of the most popular solutions that people have suggested is installing metal detectors in schools of any kind: elementary, middle, and high schools. This is one of the most controversial ideas to be talked about whenever the subject of school safety comes up, but does it prove to be useful? 

Daniel Bernzweig’s article “Metal Detectors in Schools: What You Should Know,” states: “Compared to schools without metal detectors, New York City public schools with metal detectors show a reduced number of students carrying weapons (78% vs. 14%).” This would indicate that metal detectors are something that school officials should consider putting in their schools. However, metal detectors might not work depending on the layout of the school. As Civics teacher Scott Dick stated, “In the case of Pritzker, I would say no.” He goes on to add, “If somebody wants to try, you know they will find a way, you know the side doors at Pritzker, you know how people are.” The idea of metal detectors may work for some schools, but not all. If they did want to add metal detectors, they would have to consider the layout of their school, would there be any open spots? Would there be easy-to-access windows? Any doors that could easily be opened from the outside? This might seem like ridiculous questions to ask, but it’s nitpicking to make sure every part of the school is safe and covered.

So how should schools try to improve their safety? Rather than focusing solely on what should be done on the outside, trying to mend what happens on the inside would prove to benefit more. Pritzker has gone in a step  in the right direction by expressing their intent to get the “why” behind students who constantly get into trouble. An article from the American Progress article states, “Modifying school climate to facilitate better communication and more positive interactions among staff, educators, and students have been found to be more effective than using coercive disciplinary practices.” Some students react negatively when they are heavily punished, some might act out more, and that only causes a cycle. So in order to get to the root of the problem, school staff and officials should reach out to students or teachers who exhibit unstable behavior.

A suggestion that was brought to the table is the argument that teachers should be armed with guns. Now, anyone with a speck of common sense would know that this “solution” is like taking a lit torch into a burning building. It creates unrealistic expectations of what teachers should do in a situation where there is a live gunman in the school. David Hemenway, professor of health policy and director at Harvard, has shared the same sentiment, “Hemenway said that research suggests that fewer guns—not more—would be the best way to reduce gun-related deaths. He added that expecting teachers to shoot attackers is unrealistic. ‘Your heart is beating like crazy, your adrenaline is all over your body, and you have to make a wise decision about what to do,’ he said”. The underlying cause of this problem is the fact that in the U.S. it’s so easy to obtain a firearm and it can easily fall into the wrong hands. All it takes is one person.

All in all, improving school safety should not be in the physical sense, but rather underneath. School officials should take the time to help those who reach out and others who show potentially violent behaviors.

How should school officials handle school safety?

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