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September 9, 2022

School Safety Varies Across the States

The massacre in Uvalde has spurred red and blue states to different types and degrees of action.

The murder of 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, horrified Americans. And it wasn’t even over before it divided the nation along political lines.

On one side, Democrats pushed aggressively for gun control while weak-kneed establishment Republicans went along with the idea. Meanwhile, conservatives pushed for bolder ideas such as arming school officials or even teachers. The problem with gun control, though, is the same as it’s ever been: It wouldn’t have stopped the killer from carrying out the carnage. Instead, it was the pushing of a policy that sounded good but did nothing to address the particular problem.

The school in Uvalde was practically an invitation for someone with evil intentions. Doors to the school and the classroom were unlocked, and the 376 law enforcement officers, when they ultimately arrived on scene, inexplicably waited for more than an hour before storming the classroom where the shooter had barricaded himself, and thus failed utterly in their duty to save the children from a massacre in progress.

After the shooting, it didn’t take long for politicians on both sides of the aisle to seize upon the event and support increased funding for school safety. “Texas was among several other states that set aside money for school security,” The Washington Times reports. “Gov. Greg Abbott and other top Republican leaders announced $105.5 million for school safety initiatives. Nearly half of that was slated for bullet-resistant shields for school police and $17.1 million was for districts to purchase panic-alert technology.”

The Times adds, “Other Republican governors who made money available for security upgrades include Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, who announced $100 million for school security three days after the Uvalde shooting, and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, whose state is giving $2.6 million to increase training capacity and classes for school resource officers.”

Unfortunately, at least some of the money will go toward commissions and committees to study the problem, not solve it. Some leaders, though, aren’t waiting around for the next school shooting.

In New York City, where multiple schools went into lockdown mode last spring over concerns of violence, education officials are addressing the issue by investing in technology and school safety agents.

Politico reports on the specifics of some of the statewide funding: “Texas is distributing tens of millions of dollars to equip schoolhouse cops with bullet-resistant shields and for campus panic alarms. A $50 million Arkansas grant program, approved by the legislature this month, could help schools hire more armed guards. Ohio teachers can now carry weapons in classrooms after a few days’ training under a law Republican Gov. Mike DeWine signed in June.”

Elsewhere, in rural Madison County, North Carolina, Sheriff Buddy Harwell made national headlines for developing a plan to stage AR-15 rifles in schools. Allowing teachers to voluntarily arm themselves would certainly send a powerful message to would-be assailants.

Of course, some parents and educators are concerned about turning schools into armed encampments. At the same time, adding more security guards or resource officers in recent years hasn’t been enough to address the most violent of situations. Politico adds: “Growing numbers of public schools have brought more security guards, video surveillance and controlled entryways into their buildings during the past decade. Yet federal data show fatal or injury-causing gun attacks occurring on public and private K-12 school property reached their highest level in 20 years during the 2020-21 academic term.”

One reason for increased violence in schools might be policies that prevent students who pose a threat from being removed from the classroom. Just a few years ago, as a Sun Sentinel investigation revealed: “State and federal laws guarantee those students a spot in regular classrooms until they seriously harm or maim others. Even threatening to shoot classmates is not a lawful reason to expel the child.”

A few measures seem obvious: Schools must be able to remove students with violent tendencies, they must have cameras and locked doors, and they must have personnel on site with access to firearms. And, of course, we also need to look at the cultural factors leading to anxiety, depression, and anger in our children and young people.

It’s good and necessary that we’re finally engaged in a national discussion about school violence, but politicians and school bureaucrats must do more than slap a bandage on a problem that goes much deeper. This fall, from local school boards to governors to the House and Senate, the American people have a chance to elect those who will make a priority of protecting our children.

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