This year our schools have made a cosmetic attempt to appear to be having a tighter control over who enters the school grounds. It used to be that most parents did not abide by the request to sign in at the office window. This year they began insisting that everyone sign in and wear a bright green sticker indicating they are a visitor. The rationale that I was given by the office secretary was that this was needed in order to have an accurate census of how many are in the building at any given time, in the event of a fire or other emergency requiring the building to be evacuated.
I’ve always had the habit of dropping by the school if I drive by and notice the school children out in the playground. This allows me to have an impromptu visit with my child. A week ago I did this and one of the yard attendants, a woman who has worked there as a teacher’s aide for many years, and is well acquainted with me by sight and perhaps by name, started screaming at me as I approached after entering the gate. She was a good 40 feet away, and at first I didn’t know who she was screaming at. She never attempted to approach me, but continued to scream that I needed to “get out of here!”, in front of all the school children, including my daughter, who had noticed me and was pleased to see me. I continued to approach, and she yelled that I needed to go to the office and check in. I yelled back that “You know who I am, don’t you?”, but she continued to make a scene, so I went to get a nametag. By this time my daughter, who is easily embarrassed, wanted me to go away.
To wrap up my story, I did email the principal and sent a CCC to the superindendent regarding this school employee’s poor communication techniques and inappropriate behavior in front of the schoolchildren. I received an apology from the superintendent. I sent a reply thanking him for his response, and in it I remarked that, if this new policy was for the safety of the children, that it appeared to me that it was entirely cosmetic, and would not deter an unbalanced person whatsoever, but merely inconvenience honest citizens.
In the case of this incident for instance, only an armed guard would have truly detered a school shooter. In fact, if I was a school shooter, this woman’s behavior would have enraged me. Also, the school has set a table by the school office window, with the stickers and self-sign in book, with a large sign reminding parents to sign in. A school shooter could merely grab a sticker and then reign terror on the school.
In actuality, only an armed guard would be effective, and my son tells me that they did have an armed guard at the Columbine campus. I’m wondering if the school is merely attempting to make a show of increased safety, in an insubstantial way, which is only another restriction on parents. I might mention that my daughter was a little surly for a couple of days after this incident, and I felt it had a negative effect on her to see a school employee acting so disrespectfully to her mother. I did mention to the superintendent that I felt this incident undermined me as a parent, and that this school employee needed to learn how to deal more tactfully with the public. I mentioned that this outrageous behavior would not be tolerated in a healthcare professional such as myself, but would probably lead to their termination.
What can our schools do to make our children safer? I’d like to hear from those of you who are teachers as to what new mandates your districts are making and how you are dealing with this issue.