Safety is More Than Security

The Story:

Picture this: you're running late for a flight, with an important presentation coming up later that day. The security line is long. TSA representatives loudly, slowly repeat the same reminders: no liquids in bags, remove all electronics, take off your shoes, keep your ID with you. Dogs are walked nearby, sniffing bags, while an agent brushes a wipe against a woman's hands to check for explosives residue. Another woman is led away to a private screening area after setting off the metal detector one too many times with the earrings she forgot to remove.

How do you feel in this moment? Does it make you feel safe? At peace? Secure? Or does stress begin to well up inside you just thinking about it?

We live in troubled times. School shootings and violence are serious issues. We can't be naive, or fail to adopt any reasonable measure to protect our students. But we must also constantly ask ourselves whether the actions we take work to preserve their childhoods, allow them room to grow, and make them feel safe. Those are the policies that we should pursue.

The Solution:

Faced with an impossible choice thanks to an unfunded mandate by the Florida legislature, the current school board enacted plans to hire armed school safety assistants to patrol schools not currently covered by a police officer. I believe this role should be transitioned to sworn law enforcement officers as quickly as quality applicants can be hired, and that advocating for the state to adequately fund their mandate is critical. Should the state fail to do so, I believe it's incumbent on the school board to take the steps necessary to provide for this funding itself.

These officers are – and should remain – the most visible component of a multi-faceted approach to security. Technology allows for tools, ranging from simple passkey systems and security cameras to gunshot detectors tied to door lock systems, that provide layers of assurance that entry to schools and classrooms is intelligently managed, while always allowing for safe and quick exit in case of an emergency. Reinforcing classroom doors and windows can provide an additional layer of safety, and coordinating closely with JSO can help ensure law enforcement is adequately prepared to respond rapidly in case of the unthinkable.

These measures can, and should, be implemented in ways that minimize their impact on our students. They mustn't feel as if they're living under constant threat each day they go to school. Through mindful action, we can keep them safe while providing an environment in which they can flourish.